Page 5, 26th September 2003

26th September 2003
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Page 5, 26th September 2003 — Europe

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Locations: Brussels, Sion, Calcutta


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EU enlargement crisis warning

A LEADING religious sociologist has warned .that the Catholic Church must "expect a crisis" in Eastern Europe as the price of integration with the European Union.

Fr Paul Zulehner, sociologist and dean of Vienna LJniversity's Catholic theology faculty, said: "The Church will be as strong as its believers are, and this requires a new way of organising. It has to learn to live in a liberal society whose population may even use its freedom to leave the Church. It would he a pity if Church leaders saw this liberal society as an enemy and believed no changes were needed".

Priest suspended over relationship

A Down priest has been suspended after he refused to end his "registered part nership" with a female theologian.

However, a Church spokesman said the Dutch

bishops' conference had

agreed to seek "suitable alternatives" for other clergy in registered partnerships.

Peter Kohncn, spokesman for the bishops' conference, said: "This type of partnership is formally and spiritually irreconcilable with celibacy. For privacy reasons, we can't comment directly on this case, or give information about other priests — nor would we agree there's sonic massive protest going on against celibacy here.'

Registered partnerships. which allow couples not wishing to marry to obtain marriage-style rights, were made possible. under a January 1998 law in the Netherlands.

Franciscan call for asylum care

THE FRANCISCAN Order has strongly criticised Spain for its harsh and discriminatory policies against immigrants. A string of criticisms and suggestions in a six-page document were presented to the UN Special Rapporteur on Migrant Workers, Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro.

Eight non-governmental organisations expressed alarm that Spain's policies treat immigrants as secondclass citizens and depic,t them as a threat to society, rather than a valuable resource. They also express concern over the way the government deals with the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women.

Concern over marriage law

THE PRIME Minister of Norway's official trip to Italy will include a visit to the Vatican, it emerged last week.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano and the Pope himself are likely to raise the question of Norway's new marriage law with Kjell Magne Bondevik which Catholics feel violates their religious freedom.

Mr Bondevik will meet his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, then will go to the Vatican to meet officials there, before having a private audience with the Pope.

Norway's new marriage law includes a clause where both partners must swear that they arc entering into wedlock voluntarily and also that they have an equal right to a divorce.

The idea behind the new legal addition, which came into effect July this year, was to protect Muslim women exposed to arranged marriages.

Fr Claes Tande, of St Olav's parish, calls the new clause a violation of Catholic religious freedom, saying: "It is impossible for a Catholic to marry and agree in advance that a condition of the marriage is that it can be broken."

Russia tightens abortion law

Russia could be on the point of a significant change in direction on morality and sexual issues as a major debate looms over the rights of women and unborn children.

A government resolution on abortion, approved last month, is the first restriction of any kind on the practice since a ban imposed by Stalin was lifted in 1955.

Russia is currently estimated to have nearly 13 abortions for every 10 live births and has the highest abortion rate in Europe after Romania.

The resolution, which went virtually unnoticed in the country's media, envis ages restrictions on women's access to abortion after 12 weeks.

It is being hailed by pro

lifers as a first step towards recognition of the rights of the unborn child.

Priest predicts sect threat

THE KEY cause of the growth of religiqus sects lies within each Christian, the author of a new book on sectarian currents that allegedly threaten the Hispanic Catholic world has said.

Fr Manuel Guerra GOmcz, an expert in the history of religions, believes that -without doctrinal formalion, a vibrant inner life of prayer, and apostolic dynamism, the ground may be fertile for the penetration of sects".

Fr Guerra, who is a diocesan priest of Burgos, and professor emeritus of the Burgos headquarters of the Faculty of Theology of Northern Spain, said: "To speak of 'invasion' might sound like a simple metaphor. But it is real. Obviously, 1 refer in the first place to Hispanic America as it is the place where the greatest number of Spanishspeaking and praying people are.

"I challenge anyone who thinks it is an exaggeration to compare Hispanic America of the first half of the 20th century with that of today, half a century later. He will discover the proliferation of religious sects of Hindu, Buddhist. Taoist, Shintoist, Afro-American, magic and ideological origin and stamp which are spreading in all .areas, including among the Indians."

Bishops seek asylum reform

Swiss bishops are urging government policy changes to ensure integration for refugees and asylum seekers.

Rita Wed, a director of the Swiss bishops' migration commission, said: "If you impose directives, you must expect to have them criticised from a humanitarian viewpoint.

"The Church's role is to show money and efficiency aren't the only things that count. If we're to make a better world, we can't judge human beings solely in economic and political categories."

In a report released at the bishops' early September plenary session in Sion, Switzerland, the migration commission called for measures against black market labour and social exclusion.

Cartoon recalls life of Mother

THL WORLD'S first film festival in honour of Mother Teresa will include a cartoon film of the life of the saint of Calcutta. The cartoon, entitled The Fifth. Word. will be presented at the November festival

organised by Signis International, the worldwide organisation of Catholic film producers and directors. Spain's Pasoalto Original Media Films will present the cartoon.

Producer Pablo Marcet said the film aimed to reflect as closely as possible the life and work of the founder of the Missionaries 'of Charity. Theologians were called in to advise the team of scriptwriters.

The finished script was sent to India for review by the superior of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Nirmala.

The organising committee of the festival rejected a BBC documentary and a film by Dominique Lapierre because they sparked "controversy over the person of Mother Teresa", he said.

Regarding the title of the cartoon, Mr Marcet said: "It is one of Mother Teresa's great mottos, and refers to the words of the Gospel: 'You did it to me.' For Mother Teresa, the most important of these five words was the last one, 'me'. which recalls that every action for the poor was an action with and for God."

Bishop repeat Europe appeal

Eunoee's bishops have renewed their appeal for a reference to Christianity in the forthcoming Constitution of the European Union.

In a letter to Silvio Berlusconi, the president and vicepresidents of the Commission of the Bishops'. Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) welcomed the European Convention, which drafted the proposed Constitutional Treaty, describing it as "a successful innovation in the European democratic process".

German Bishop Josef Homeyer, Dutch Bishop Adrianus van Luyn and French Archbishop Hippolyte Simon, who met in Brussels on September 19, also welcomed proposed references to Europe's religious inheritance and values.

But they renewed their call for a reference to Christianity in the preamble of the Constitution. which, they said, "would complete the Constitution by giving concrete expression to what many citizens recognise as the source of the values on which the European project is founded".

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