Caritas, Czech Republic, Spain, Slovakia

Caritas Internationalis: emergencies and social action for the Sahel A few days ago the working group of Caritas Internationalis on the Sahel (Gtcis), convened to reflect on the initiatives undertaken by Caritas to face the emergencies as well as food security in the African region. Gtcis shared concern for the situation in Niger, conveying solidarity to Caritas Niger and to the whole population. The purpose of the meeting was also to exchange information on the activities of the campaign "A sole human family: Food for all", to tackle the issue of food security and the right to nutrition in Sahel and the action plan for 2015. Participants addressed a set of problems that include the social and economic environment marked by extreme poverty, the delays in the rainy season, the food crisis that has hit several Countries, the increase in food prices, the flight from the countryside, the drop in the purchasing power of farmers, malnutrition, terrorism, the rise of extremism. As for joint actions, these will be oriented towards the development of a multinational program to be organized in Western Africa, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Gtcis and in coordination with Justice and Peace and the Regional Bishops’ Conference. A conference on security, peace and development will be held with the participation of the bishops of the region. Gtcis is committed to creating an emergency fund for the Sahel, visiting Caritas Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. Czech Republic: the themes discussed during the bishops’ plenary meeting An evaluation of the results of the last year’s collection to support refugees in various parts of the world, statistics regarding the participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations, the preparation of the national Eucharistic Congress 2015. These were the main themes of the recent plenary session of the Czech Bishops’ Conference held in Prague. The outcomes of a survey conducted by the Catholic Church on the participation of faithful to Masses and liturgical services show that an average number of 420 thousand Catholics (out of 10 million inhabitants) regularly attend Sunday Mass, with an average age of 47 years. The bishops’ Conference intends to reflect on these figures in the coming months. Participants in the plenary conveyed their positive evaluation of the results of the collection for refugees that took place in Fall 2014 in all Catholic parishes, amounting to 12,5 million crowns. Most of the sum will be spent to support refugees from Syria and Iraq, while over 3 million crowns will go to the victims of the conflict in Ukraine. The prelates have also discussed a project for the creation of airport chaplaincies and the publication of the new Missal in Czech language. The next plenary session of the Bishops’ Conference is tabled for April 22-25. Spain: three competitions to raise knowledge of Theresa of Avila The Catholic University of Ávila, Ceu San Pablo, CEU Cardenal Herrera, Abat Oliva CEU, in Valencia, Francisco de Vitoria and San Jorge Zaragoza are organizing a photo, shorts and literature contest on the themes of Theresa on the occasion of the Interuniversity Congress “Saint Theresa de Jesús, a teacher of life”, which will be celebrated in Ávila, from 1 to 3 August 2015. In total, 4,500 Euros will be awarded to the winners of the three competitions. The aim of the competitions is to make known the message and the figure of Saint Teresa worldwide. The creative works must be inspired by one of the themes of the conference: “Santa Teresa and the new evangelization”, “Unity of life: the inner world”; “Unity of life: external world”, “Validity and future perspective in Saint Theresa.” The winners’ works will be exhibited during the celebration of the congress. Two thousand university centers were invited to attend the conference, which forms part of the activities for the fifth centenary of the birth of Theresa de Jesús. Info: www.congresosantateresa2015.es. Slovakia: the President meets religious leaders "Each religion features specific teaching, messages and rules, but all religious share their most important mission: to build relationships". These were the welcoming words delivered by the President of the Slovakian Republic Andrej Kiska, to the representatives of Christian Churches and religious bodies during a joint meeting in Bratislava last week. He underlined that Churches exert an important influence on people and spoke of their irreplaceable role in the respect of the dignity of each human being. According to Andrej Kiska, religion can give a significant contribution to the success of the referendum on the protection of the family that will be held in Slovakia February 7 2015. He said he hopes that all members of society may become the protagonists of a respectful, open dialogue on this theme. Msgr. Stanislav Zvolensky, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Slovakia, mentioned the problem of the "drop in values" caused in the name of freedom and democracy, and called upon all Slovakian citizens to assume the responsibility of the future of society.

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