Austria: a million stars against poverty”A million stars against poverty”: as in the past Caritas Austria promotes solidarity for the poor with a campaign that will take off on December 16. For this, candles will be distributed and lit in the main squares of Austrian cities. The purpose is to raise public-awareness on the theme of poverty and encourage commitments to counter social marginalization, especially now that the European Year for Combating Poverty is coming to a close. In Vienna the initiative begins at 11.00 at Stephanplatz, with the collection of food for the poor, while 3000 candles will be lit in the afternoon. Caritas director Michael Landau will address the situation of aid to Austria’s needy population. The event will also take place in Graz, Klagenfurt, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Linz, and in numerous cities of the Austrian Länder with different initiatives that range from concerts to workshops along with fund-raising for specific projects carried out in conjunction with “Young Caritas”. The “One Million Stars” campaign is being launched at international level, it takes place every year across a dozen European countries that include Germany, Switzerland, France and Luxembourg, with the objective of promoting social cohesion and solidarity. Germany: “Sternsinger” for Haiti and disabled childrenThe children in Haiti and the young disabled in developing countries are the recipients of the traditional Christmas fund-collection promoted by the Sternsinger, the cantors of the star. The first is a collection for Missionary Children Day (January 6 2011). Children will collect money in colored carton piggybanks. 2 million euro collected in the 2009 edition served to fund projects for aid to children across the world. Also, according to Catholic News Agency KNA, next December 30 in a number of dioceses some 1500 young women and men will take part in the opening ceremony of the Cantors of the Stars initiative, dedicated to disabled children in developing Countries. “Children will learn to act in solidarity with children in other parts of the world”, said the bishop of Essen, Msgr. Franz-Josef Overbeck. The action of the Cantors of the Star extends beyond the Catholic world. In fact children of Evangelical confession and children from non-Christian backgrounds will also take part in the initiative. Accordingly, in the days of the Epiphany some 500.000 children and youth dressed as the Magi will pass door to door to collect money with the wish: “May God bless this home”. The initiative is promoted by the Sternsinger and by the Federation of Young German Catholics (Bdkj). Belgium: hosting the homeless for ChristmasIn a message for Christmas issued recently, the bishops of Belgium invite the faithful to make concrete acts of solidarity for the homeless, and urge institutions to find a structural solution to grant asylum and protection to the homeless. In the Letter the bishops express their gratitude to all those who endeavored to provide a concrete answer to the needs of these people in difficulty and ask parishes to continue their efforts in order to find appropriate hospitality solutions for the homeless. To this regard the Belgium Bishops’ Conference made known that Caritas International is available for advice and information to all those in dire straits. At this moment of Advent, concludes the message, it’s impossible that these people are not given a dwelling-place. Italy: dioceses for families in difficultyItalian dioceses are sensitive to the difficulties of persons in need especially now, given the ongoing financial crisis. In Milan, on Christmas Eve of two years ago, archbishop Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, launched the Family-Work Fund, a solidarity initiative which to date collected 9 million and 700 thousand euro, 9.287.655 euro of which were distributed to 4.667 needy persons through the parishes. For Christmas the archbishop decided to enrich what he defined “a heaven-bestowed intuition” with the donation of manger-scenes that he received as gifts. A similar initiative was launched a year and a half ago by the diocese of Como on the instruction of the bishop, Msgr. Diego Coletti. Over the past months Como’s fund-collection, which is addressed especially to families or individuals who are experiencing difficulties or have lost their job as a result of the crisis, put together 590 euro. The objective is to re-launch the initiative for Christmas “in order to respond to the requests that keep on coming in”. Other dioceses, such as Benevento and Gorizia, have inaugurated the “solidarity market” for poor families, which provides support to those with food shortage.