Page 5, 18th October 2002

18th October 2002
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Page 5, 18th October 2002 — Europe

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Saint's final letter on display

THE LAST letter written by St Maximilian Kolbe to his mother is being placed on public view.

The priest, who was martyred after he volunteered to take the place of a father of a family sentenced to death in Auschwitz, wrote the letter just before he was given a lethal injection at the concentration camp.

It expresses a tenderness not shown in other writings with its contents indicating that his sacrifice was something that matured over a lifetime. "Dear mother, It would be better if you did not write me until I send you another letter, because I don't know how long I will be here", he says.

The letter was released to mark the 20th anniversary of his canonisation. The Conventual Friars Minor of Poland opened the archives at Niepokalanow, the "City of the Immaculate", built by the priest himself.

A few weeks before the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept 1, 1939 Kolbe wrote: "To suffer, work and die like a knight, not with a normal death but, for example, with a bullet in the head, sealing our love for the Immaculate, like a real knight spilling our own blood to the last drop, to hasten the conquest of the whole world for Her. I cannot conceive of anything more sublime".

Franciscan fury at brothel slur

THE Moscow community of the Franciscan Order of Conventual Friars Minor has denounced an attempt to implicate it in a prostitution scandal.

After Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls defended the community this week in a press statement, the religious community also made an announcement. "The Franciscans have not organised any brothel," they said. "What is more, they are victims of a manoeuvre that they are attempting to clarify."

The Franciscans said their effort to clarify the situation has the support of the Russian police and justice officials. But they have been unable to evict the people who are behind the prostitution, which is taking place in an apartment the Franciscans rent out.

The apartment was rented in February by Leonidovna Tikhonova, who claimed she wanted "to organise welfare activitiesthere. A month later, the friars were told that the apartment was being used for prostitution. They then notified the police.

Bishops combat vocations crisis

EUROPEAN bishops have stressed the recruitment of seminarians at a time when the number of candidates to the priesthood is falling.

The annual assembly of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences in Croatia ended with a message of confidence in the prospects for "evangelisation and transmission of the faith".

Currently, almost half of the candidates to the priesthood in Europe come from Poland and Italy, but, other countries, such as Switzerland and Spain, have seen the number of new seminarians plummet.

The bishops explained: "Every Christian is called to be a protagonist of the latter, but in this sense specific vocations to the consecrated life and the priesthood, whose number is declining in some countries of Europe, have an irreplaceable role".

Diplomatic See change

THE HOLY See's representative to the Russian Federation is moving to Austria.

Archbishop Giorgio Zur, who has protested officially on several occasions to the federal authorities over the expulsion of a Catholic bishop and several priests, has been appointed apostolic nuncio by the Pope.

Because of its special relations with Russia, the Vatican appoints a representative in Moscow, rather than a nuncio.

Archbishop Zur will be replacing Archbishop Donato Squicciarini, who turned 75 last April. Archbishop Zur's successor has yet to be announced. Since his appointment in 2000 the archbishop has worked to foster good relations with the Moscow Orthodox Patriarchate.

Bureaucracy 'stifles faith'

A GERMAN cardinal says that tiers of Church bureaucracy stifle the faith. Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, was explaining the criticisms he made during the last meeting of the German episcopate, regarding the Church's bureaucratic institutions. He criticised the "structures, commissions, statues and secretariats" within the Church, which he said run the risk of "obfuscating the faith".

He told a magazine: "There is a great positive determination and witness of faith in Catholic associations. However, it is also the case that they serve as the basis for endless debates. These are alarming developments, before which we bishops cannot close our eyes".

Cardinal plans Bulgaria visit

A VATICAN cardinal is visiting Bulgaria in a bid to foster good relations with the Orthodox Church there.

As part of his three-day visit, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will receive an honorary doctorate in theology from the State University of Sofia. His visit is a continuation of the dialogue begun during the Pope's visit to the country last May.

Pope selected as top European

THE POPE is among the candidates for "European of the Year".

The selection was made by European Voice, a weekly English-language newspaper published in Brussels and widely read in European institutions.

Fifty individuals have already been chosen in 10 categories. The Pope has been put forward "for championing EU enlargement in his native Poland and for his plea to include Christian values — without excluding other traditions — in the Convention on the Future of Europe".

Swedish royal seeks papal visit

CROWN PRINCESS Victoria Of Sweden met the Pope at the Vatican and invited him to revisit her country.

Sources said Swedes hope the pope can travel next spring to Vadstena, the place where St Brigit founded her order and her first convent in the 1300s. Celebrations are scheduled there at the end of May to mark the 700th anniversary of the saint's birth.

The princess told the pontiff that her parents sent their regards and relayed the Brigittine sisters' excitement about their meeting. Finding the pope in good form, the princess in Rome for an ecumenical prayer service in St Peter's Basilica presided over by him, said: "He had a good day. I've met him before; he's a fantastic person".

In his sermon, the Pope cited St Brigit's work for Christian unity saying it offered an example for today's Christians.

Italian's cause moves forward

THE CAUSE of beatification has been opened for Giovanni Palatucci, an Italian policeman who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

Palatucci was the commissioner of the Adriatic coast town of Rijeka, which today is in Croatia but during the Second World War was under Italian jurisdiction with the name Fiume.

He saved more than 5,000 Jews from death between 1937 and 1944 by providing them with false documents and safeconducts. He also paid for his actions with his own deportation and death from exhaustion in Dachau concentration camp in February 1945, at the age of 35 years.

The ceremony for the opening of the cause was attended by representatives of the Roman Jewish community.

Marian statue in parliament

A VENERATED Marian statue has been taken to the Ukrainian parliament in a symbolic gesture intended to remind people of the country's links with its Catholic past.

The ceremony was the climax of a four-month pilgrimage through 24 Ukrainian cities. The reason for the event was to bring into national consciousness Christian values and the influence of Marian spirituality which has its roots in the 11th century, when the entire country received the protection of Our Lady.

The Ukrainian GreekCatholic Patriarch Lyubomyr Husar and the Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv at present.

Bishop defends radio station

A POLISH bishop has rallied to the defence of a Catholic radio station a month after its closure was ordered by a cardinal.

Auxiliary Bishop Adam Lepa of Lodz said that the aims of Radio Maryja, the fifth highest-rated radio station in the country, were pastoral and evangelical.

In September, Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Warsaw said the radio station had no right to organise "services, conferences, or other forms of religious instruction" in his archdiocese without his consent.

Launched in 1991, Radio Maryja has vigorously campaigned against Poland's planned January 2004 accession to the European Union, which is formally supported by the bishops' conference.

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