Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Finland

Slovakia: every day, Masses for life and the family Masses will be celebrated every day in all the dioceses in Slovakia during the entire course of 2015 in order to “spread the culture of life, bless and strengthen married couples and families.” Every month a different diocese will be responsible for the project. In January it was the turn of the Eparchy of Bratislava, followed by the Diocese of Zilina in February. “Eucharistic celebrations form part of the preparations for the second National March for Life, promoted by the Bishops’ Conference of Slovakia and scheduled for September 20, 2015 in Bratislava. At the same time, the bishops underlined the message of the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae”, “since this year we celebrate its 20th anniversary,” said Marek Michalèík, coordinator of the “pro-life events” of the Bishops Conference and vice President of the Forum for Life. The project of the daily Masses for life was created on the initiative of Msgr. Stefan Secka, bishop of the diocese of Spis, president of the Subcommittee on Bioethics of the Bishops Conference, whose members feel that this is an important step in the development of society in Slovakia and for its future.Poland: alcohol a social plague, week of prayer The week of prayer for abstinence, held February 15 to 21, this year is dedicated to the prevention of alcohol abuse among minors. “The increasingly lower age of persons abusing alcohol is a result of the readily availability of alcoholic beverages, their continued promotion in the media and the increasingly liberal model of education in the family,” said Archbishop Tadeusz Bronakowski, head of the Apostolate Group for Sobriety of the Polish episcopate. The prelate highlighted the need for a joint commitment against alcohol abuse by parents, priests, catechists and teachers in favor of “an awakening of consciences” to avoid “the spreading of negative behavioural patterns among children.” The week envisages daily prayers for all families, children and young people. It also promotes the adhesion of children to the Crusade of the Immaculate Virgin with the commitment to a daily rosary prayer and penance. Besides the week, which always begins on the last Sunday of the carnival, the Polish episcopate is engaged every August in the coordination of the various initiatives in favour of sober adults. Czech Republic: the diocesan museum of LitomericeThe Diocese of Litomerice in the Czech Republic celebrates the 130th anniversary of the foundation of the Diocesan Museum and the 20th anniversary of its restoration since the fall of communism. Both anniversaries will feature a wide range of activities and events that will be held in the coming months, including a special exhibition “Ad Gloriam Dei”, dedicated to the history of the museum and its most valuable artefacts. The Diocesan Museum was the first institution of its kind in the territory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, established during the episcopate of Emanuel Jan Schoebel. The exhibition will be open to the public until April 19, 2015 at the Gallery of Fine Arts of North Bohemia in Litomerice, under the patronage of the Minister of Culture, Daniel Herman, and the bishop of Litomerice, Jan Baxant. For further information: www.dltm.cz Finland: the small Catholic community is growing Finnish Catholics are increasing. At the end of 2014 13,422 Catholics were registered in Finland, 4.4% more compared to the end of 2013 (the growth rate in the previous year was 3.4%). This slight percentage growth is distributed, albeit in varying proportions, in all 82 parishes of the diocese, “except in Kouvola,” states the press release published on the website of the diocese. The main reasons for the increase are related to 235 baptisms and 430 new immigrants, compared to 30 deaths, 27 withdrawals from the Catholic Church, and 96 people who have left the territory of the diocese. According to the 2014 figures 166 children in Finland have received First Communion, were imparted 179 Confirmations and were celebrated 45 marriages. 43% of Catholics are native speakers of Finnish. Statistics also clarifies that 1,506 children and young people have received religious education in 2014, some in religion classes at school, others in the parish catechesis. This number corresponds to 41% of Catholic children.

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