Page 4, 20th June 2003

20th June 2003
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Page 4, 20th June 2003 — Europe
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Europe

Berlin Church tightens belt

THE BERLIN archdiocese is laying off 400 employees and closing 50 per cent of its parishes in order to pay off £7lmillion in debt.

A seminary will be closed and real estate will also be sold in an effort to deal with a £7million budget deficit.

Cardinal Georg Stcrzinsky of Berlin said he hoped the measures would enable the archdiocese to balance its budget by 2008.

In January this year reports said the archdiocese had badly miscalculated the positive financial impact German reunification would have on the Church and that it had been living way above its means.

The Berlin archdiocese serves 400,000 registered Catholics in the once-divided city, as well as in the sparsely populated former East German states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Lower Pomerania. Pensions and wages will also he affected.

"The financial repair of the archdiocese cannot only be carried out on the backs of those who will lose their jobs," said Cardinal Sterzinsky. "Staff who keep their jobs must also make a contribution."

New deacons for diocese

LN A SIGN of the Church's resurgence after Soviet communism, Russia's Saratow diocese has two new deacons, writes Aid to the Church in Need.

Mgr Clemens Pickel, the Bishop of the Saratow-based diocese of St Clement, ordained Alexej Polisko and Vladimir Lysatow, alumni of St Petersburg Catholic Seminary, on June 11.

The bishop has named Mgr Dariusz Jagoszinski as his new vicar general, replacing Fr Michael Screen MSC, who is returning home to Ireland.

Patriarch rails at Vatican 'lies'

THE. HEAD of the Russian Orthodox Church has lashed out at Vatican plans for new dioceses in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.

"I don't think that relations between the churches should resemble the worst kind of secular diplomatic dealings, when lies and treachery are tolerated, when one hand is outstretched in a sign of friendship and the other hand is delivering a punch," Patriarch Alexei 11 told the Russian daily lzvestia.

The 80-million member Russian Orthodox Church regards the mostly Muslim Central Asian state of Kazakhstan as part of its "canonical territory" and sees any moves by the Vatican to create administrative structures there as hostile.

The Patriarch added: "They would have us believe that they are working for peace, partnership and the mutual solution of problems confronting our churches. But then, without any consultation, they decide to create parallel dioceses, an act that makes Orthodox believers indignant and bitter."

An estimated 360,000 people of Catholic descent live in Kazakhstan. The Pope visited the country in 2001.

In recent weeks, talk of a possible historic visit by the Pope to the Russian city of Kazan has virtually ceased, as attention turns to the internal church struggle over who will succeed Patriarch,who is in ill health.

Pope 'key' to Polish yes vote

POLISH church leaders have said the country's vote to join the European Union may not have happened without the guidance of Pope John Paul II.

"Without John Paul II, we wouldn't have taken this decisive step," said Archbishop Henryk Muszynski of Gniezno.

More than 75 per cent of Poles voted in support of European Union admission with a national turnout for the referendum of 59 per cent.

The referendum result clears the way for Poland to join the European Union next May.

Poland's Catholic bishops urged citizens to vote in a June 1 pastoral letter. The letter was read in churches along with statements by the Pope supporting the referendum.

A Church spokesman said the Pope had followed the Polish referendum during his pilgrimage to Croatia, and hoped his homeland would "be able to contribute with its spiritual, moral and religious values" to the European Union.

Polish priest in abuse inquiry

A POLISH priest has been arrested and charged with the sexual abuse of a 12year-old boy. Police charged Fr Jerzy Uberman, 52, with molesting the boy in the rectory of Raising the Cross parish in Slowino in the KoszalinKolobrzeg diocese.

A police spokesman said "Actions undertaken by police and investigators have enabled these charges to be upheld.

"As yet, we have no information as to whether the number of offended parties could be greater."

Press reports allege that "numerous pornographic gay materials" were found in the priest's home, including several videos depicting "the priest engaged in acts with children".

Bishops issue EU reflection

THE EUROPEAN Union's bishops have published a document calling for the expansion of the European Union to be viewed from a Christian perspective.

Let Us Open Our Hearts was prepared by a group of European theologians, chaired by Archbishop Hippolyte Simon of Clermont, France, the Vice-President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (Comece).

The document is being sent to all the Catholic Bishops' ConferenCes of the current and future member states of the European Union in order that it will be read, commented upon and amended by the greatest possible number of groups and movements in the Church.

A spokesman for Comece said the task of discernment concerned all the Bishops' Conferences and movements of the Church. He said: "It is neither definitive nor exhaustive: it is intended as a `target text', which aims to launch a much wider process of reflection."

The text has been published on Comece's official website (www.comece.org) A full appraisal will be presented at a theological congress in Santiago de Compostela on April 22-23, 2004.




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