England-Wales, Portugal, COMECE

An appeal for Syria from the English Catholic Church The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales conveyed an appeal for peace and support to the work of charitable organizations in Syria. In a release signed by the president of the episcopate, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Gerard Nichols, and by the president of the Episcopal commission for international affairs, the bishop of Clifton, Declan Ronan Lang – the bishops renewed their call to the faithful to pray for the people of Syria where there is "an increasingly bitter conflict that shows no sign of ending". The tragedy "is a challenge to the international community and to each of us". The communiqué underlines that "the cost in lives now amounts to around 100,000 people killed, with perhaps 4.25 million internally displaced. "The suffering that Syrians endure is growing not only through violence but also the economic hardships faced by increasing numbers in that country. The summer heat will bring further extreme hardship to those living in refugee camps". The urgent challenge facing the parties will be "in creating conditions for a ceasefire" and eventually a "settlement that respects the dignity, fundamental freedoms and rights of all Syrians". At the end of the message the episcopate asked to support practically those people exiled or internally displaced by contributing to the relief effort and the work of organisations such as the British Catholic agency for aid to development of overseas countries. A special Mass for the Syrian population will be celebrated on July 12 in Westminster’s cathedral. Portugal: Algarve youths envoys at the WYD In his homily during the Eucharistic celebration of July 6th the bishop of Algarve invoked the Divine blessing for the 39 pilgrims who will take part in the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. Msgr. Manuel Quintas told young people gathered in the parish church of Lagoa: "the blessing imparted for your journey holds great significance". "We’re here to ask for the protection, force and assistance of Our Lord, not only that the days may be fruitful for all of you who will be there, but also because through you spiritual fruits may be reaped for the benefit of our diocesan church and for your peers who were unable to join you". The prelate reminded the youths who will be attending the WYD that each one of them "represents him/herself". At the same time each one of you, he added, "is an envoy" of "your parish" and of the youth groups "you are members of": even the young people who will not attend the WYD will accompany the days of the meeting with common prayers. "The diocese of Algarve is here to give your all the support you need, in the belief that you will represent us in the best way", the bishop added. Evoking the previous WYD in Madrid, Msgr. Quintas underlined that "the witness of participants have always turned out to be more convincing than any other appeal". The bishop of Algarve gave each youth a scarf and a wooden cross. Clinical trials: COMECE’s opinion Over the past months the European Parliament’s Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) has worked on a Proposal for a "Regulation on clinical trials on medical products for human use", due to replace a controversial 2001 Directive. The new regulation will harmonize and simplify evaluation and authorization procedures regarding drug testing while encouraging research and ensuring the respect of patients’ rights. The new document clarifies the responsibilities of ethical committees as well as informed consent procedures. The Reflection Group on Bioethics of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) is following and monitoring the evolution of the project: during the months devoted to consultations COMECE sent the ENVI Committee its own contribution (see SIR Europe 38/2013). But another version of the EP document was approved May 29, which is up for debate in October. In a statement regarding the new draft Regulation, COMECE Secretariat "welcomes the improvements to the original proposal" underlining that "there is still room for further changes", notably the chapters of the Proposal regarding the protection of vulnerable persons or testing in emergency situations, or regarding drugs not yet on the market owing to the opinions of national ethical committees and the question of tacit consent. COMECE will continue monitoring the issue.

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