Youths and the family, meeting of bishops

The Bishops' Conference three-day meeting in Geneva to discuss ethical issues and reform of ecclesial services

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference convened for three days in Geneva, from March 2-4, to reflect on a set of issues that include the approach towards homosexual couples, youth pastoral care, preparation for the next session of the Synod on the Family and palliative treatments. The doctrine cannot be changed. “The bishops underline that it is not possible, nor does it lie within their competence to change Church discipline and doctrine” in terms of imparting blessing to same-sex couples. In a few lines the Swiss bishops curtail the fuss stirred by the story of the Swiss bishop Wendelin Bucheli, sanctioned for having blessed a couple of homosexual women and consequently invited by Msgr. Vitus Huonder, bishop of Coira, to abandon the parish and return under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Losanne Losanna Mons. Charles Morerod, where the priest had been ordained. Since the case stirred strong reactions and tensions in the diocese of Coira, in particular in the parish of Bürglen, where the priest served his ministry, the bishops deemed it appropriate to underline that “it is the responsibility of diocesan bishops to clarify and solve the incident in Bürgeln”. The spotlight of the Swiss media and public opinion was on this “topical issue”, addressed by the bishops during their plenary meeting. A commitment for the international community. According to a report presented at the end of the bishops’ gathering, the highlight of the conference was the meeting with Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva. The nuncio shared with the bishops “an overview of the activities promoted by the Holy See at the various agencies of the international community”. The main issues on which the Holy See is called to express her views are “human rights, disarmament, refugees, mediation for peace, world trade, public health and social ethics”, while “intercultural dialogue is gaining increasing relevance in the commitment” of Msgr. Tomasi – for example in relation to the issues “of freedom of religion and expression.” In the dialogue between the nuncio and the bishops was addressed the position taken by the Holy See during the recent conference on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The nuncio said that “the measures taken so far by the international community for the abolition of nuclear weapons”, considered “limited, inadequate and ‘frozen’ in space and time”, are too ineffective, given the need to change a “status quo can not be maintained”. The Swiss bishops highlighted the commitment “of the Catholic Church in reaffirming the positions of many people to whom she thereby gives a voice”. Reorganizing the structures. The bishops also spoke of the ongoing reorganization of the Conference’s structures. “The next step involves the group of experts of the Bishops’ Conference, notably the Commission for communication and the media and the Justice and Peace Commission”, states the final document. The reflections will take place “in conjunction with these groups”, the bishops pointed out. Over the past months was finalized the reorganization of the bishops’ secretariat along with its “downsizing”, that entailed the dismissal of the deputy secretary-general Marco Schmid, as well as of the service for communications, that led to the creation of three regional “Catholic media centres”. Internet, radio/TV and the press news services were channelled on three information platforms (in German, French and Italian,). The restructuring entailed the dismissal of another collaborator, Simon Spengler, secretary of the Commission for the Media. Youth, the family, palliative treatment. During their assembly the bishops sent a message to all youths and young adults from all the linguistic regions of Switzerland to take part in the “feast of faith” that will be celebrated in Freiburg May 1-3. It will be the first time that a World Youth Day is celebrated at the level of the Confederation. The organizing committee envisages the participation of one thousand people aged 16-35. It will be an appointment ahead of the 2016 world meeting in Krakow. On the agenda for the coming months figures a meeting of the bishops in Bern on August 31 for a “day of internal study”, ahead of the next session of the Bishops’ Synod, to “delve into the theological foundations and acquire an appropriate understanding at the present time of vocation and the mission of the family in modern society”. The bishops’ Conference intends to develop the area of palliative treatment; for this purpose it was decided that “a Catholic group of experts” will be set up. Its members are due to be appointed soon along with the person of reference.

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