Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovakia, Iceland

Czech Republic: the reconstruction of VelehradOver 350 million crowns (13 million euros) have been invested in the rebuilding of Velehrad, Czech Republic, in the past five years. The project, titled “Velehrad – Center for cultural dialogue between Western Europe and Eastern Europe” has transformed the face of one of the most renowned and visited pilgrimage sites in the Country. Most of the work has been carried out during 2013, the Jubilee Year of the Saints Cyril and Methodius, on the occasion of the 1050th anniversary of their arrival in Great Moravia. In addition to the reconstruction of the basilica and the archaeological excavations that have brought to light the precious medieval origins of the monastery, a consistent sum was invested in the setup of three interesting exhibits respectively dedicated to the Holy Scripture, to the story of Velehrad and to 20th century martyrs. The conservation works of the pilgrimage site will continue in 2015 in the framework of the project “Baroque Velehrad”, for the restoration of all the lateral chapels and the sacristy of the basilica, and with the instalment of devices for the disabled.Ukraine: a book on future and hope”A future and a hope: mission, theological formation and transformation of post-Soviet society” is the title of a book written by Mykhaylo Cherenkov, recently presented at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. The research began in 2012. The document is the result of a theological dialogue between Cherenkov and young British theologian Sorl Joshua, lecturer at the Spergen College in London. The book is dedicated to “in-depth analysis of Ukrainian society, the influence of the Church, religious formation.” Particular attention is paid to the events of Maidan. According to the author, “there was a glimmer of hope, the possibility of a different future. Therefore, the ‘Revolution of dignity’ actually became a guide on how the values of the Kingdom of God can be embedded in social transformation.” Both Cherenkov and Sorl are convinced that the book will attract attention on the issue of Ukraine and will result in “a demonstration of international solidarity with the Christian community” in the Country.Slovakia: developing religious tourismA Club of Friends of the Camino de Santiago “Xacobeo” in Slovakia was founded in Bratislava. The project aims to promote the development of the Way of Santiago in Slovakia and the pilgrimage sites in general. “People can help with prayers, donations, cooperation, as well as offering hospitality to pilgrims. It can be a support provided by individuals and various communities, parishes. We hope that this initiative will encourage and contribute positively to the development of so-called ecclesial and religious tourism”, said the representatives of the Forum of the Camino de Santiago, which brings together different organizations from all corners of the country. The route goes from Kosice to Litmanová through Cerveny Klastor, Levoca , Kezmarok, , its official opening took place in May 2014. For more information: www.svatojakubskacesta.skIceland: bishop Bürcher leaves Reykjavik for health reasons”Already last year, Pope Francis told me ‘Take care of your health'”, writes the Bishop of Reykjavik, Msgr. Pierre Bürcher, in a letter dated 9 January to the diocese of Iceland, in which he explains the reasons that led him to submit to the Pope “for health reasons, several months ago,” the pastoral renunciation to the post of Bishop of Reykjavik. Born in Switzerland in 1945, Bürcher had been appointed bishop of Fribourg (Switzerland) in 1994 and was sent by Benedict XVI in Reykjavik in 2007, to the lead of over 11,500 Catholics. Affected by “chronic asthmatic bronchitis”, the bishop said he had received “the unanimous advice of many physicians” to “change climate, and move to a less cold and not volcanic region.” He will be spending a period in the Holy Land, “in agreement with the Patriarch of Jerusalem” to “devote myself to prayer, according to my possibilities, to animate retreats and pilgrimages in support of our brothers and sisters in the East as I have done since the beginning of my ministry.” He will continue to be followed by the association St. John Vianney of Lausanne that in all these years has accompanied and financially supported the pastoral work of the bishop in Iceland. “I’m sorry to leave this beautiful, booming country”, writes Bürcher, that in the letter thanked all for their understanding and faithful cooperation. “I was able to plant the seeds: others will reap the fruits.”

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