Belgium, Slovakia, Bulgaria

Belgium: Synod family, “a welcoming Church” The first figures on the consultation launched by Pope Francis in bishops’ conferences worldwide to assess the relationship of Catholic faithful with Church pastoral care and married life, in view of October’s Synod on the Family, are available on the website of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference, 3000 respondents filled out the questionnaire in Belgium (70% of whom French-speaking). Among the faithful – is the first finding – many communicated their gratitude to the Church for having given them the opportunity of expressing their opinion. They also underlined that this kind of consultation is infrequent and is generally compiled by bishops and theologians. Some respondents stressed comprehension difficulties caused by the use of specific terminology and wording in the survey, closer to theological language and canon law than to every day speech. The first consultation results show that Belgian Catholics learn Church teaching through the media. Therefore, in the awareness that national media is very critical of Catholic religion, respondents asked whether the information is sufficient. A paradox – dissonance – emerged between authentic Church message and the message received. Superficial knowledge and acceptance of Church doctrine also emerges in the findings, which shows that only a part of Church doctrine is accepted. In fact, while some faithful said they lead a Christian life according to Church teaching, a relevant number of Catholics believe that Christian values belong to the past, and that the Church should adapt to the spirit of contemporary society. Belgian Catholics expect that the Church may welcome all faithful, regardless of differences or past mistakes. This view is shared especially in terms of homosexual faithful and remarried divorcees. Following Pope Francis, Catholics call for a mother Church that is welcoming to all and rejects nobody. There derives the need also to grow in the faith and give rise to living communities. Respondents underlined the crucial role of women in the life of the Church: women are the ones who transmit the faith to their children and accompany their development, point out Belgian Catholics. Slovakia, “May married couples bear witness to faith” While the Catholic Church in Slovakia celebrates the Year of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in 2014, the Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Prešov puts special emphasis on the family in this regard. “Blessed pope John Paul II, during his apostolic journey to Prešov years ago, said that mother is the person who unites all members of the family, who – with her maternal love – solves problems and eliminates misunderstandings. The Mother of God is the one who has always kept our families together and become a refuge for those who had problems”, explains Mons. Ján Babjak, archbishop metropolitan of Prešov. As he adds, modern families have to face many attacks from the outside, as the society is often “hostile” to its basic cell. “I wish that the Greek Catholics unite in prayers and ask the Holy Family for blessing and strong unity of our families”, continues the prelate, reminding the faithful of the Synod on family due to be held in October in Rome upon the decision of the Holy Father Francis. Mons. Babjak calls on the married couples to pay enough attention to their children and to become the first witnesses to their faith in God and their love for the Church. As limina visit for Bulgarian bishops “We will tell Pope Francis about the Catholic Church in Bulgaria, which, despite being small and having moderate means, tries to reach the needy ones and the “suburbs” where we are recently helping the Syrian refugees”. This was said by the president of the Bulgarian Bishops Conference, monsignor Hristo Proykov, questioned by SIR the day before the visit ad limina of the bishops of the Balkan country, due to take place from 13th to 15th February. “Our community is still weak after the hard Atheist blow – the prelate adds -, but it is lively and it has been rejuvenated by the Bulgarians’ new vocations to priesthood and consecrated life”. And he adds: “In most parishes, we have rebuilt the facilities and we are working hard, but consumerism and moral relativism have not spared them”. Mgr. Proykov admits that he “is looking forward to the Synod on the Family, because of which 2014 has been proclaimed the Year of Family, with s special prayer for faithfulness and the protection of life”. In addition, the president of the Bulgarian Bishops states: “We will express to the Pope the gratitude and the great expectations of the Bulgarian devotees for the forthcoming canonisation of John XXIII and John Paul II, Pontiffs that had connections with Bulgaria, Roncalli as an apostolic delegate to Sofia for 10 years, and Wojtyla as the first Pope to have visited the country”.

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