Thinking of the people: this is the only serious thing while our society seems to have come at a crossroads: this was said earlier today in Rome by the president of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, at the core of his opening address at the general assembly of the bishops that began in the Vatican and will go on until Thursday. As at any general bishops meeting in our country, the cardinal presidents opening address is the guiding document, the one that speaks and tells about all the concerns that the Italian Church feels and experiences along with the people. So, todays opening address was interspersed with an alternation of cheering for the recent election of Pope Francis and on the other side with serious concerns for the widespread social malaise resulting from the continuing economic crisis, with a multitude of young people who can find no job. In the background but no less serious, the cardinal mentioned the complex issues of the defence of life, freedom of education, the rising moral decay that comes in many forms. A speech, that of cardinal Bagnasco, which will not fail to make people think. Because he does not mince his words when he says: We are in the frenzy of an emergency that, like an irreducible and ever-rising wave, is besieging us.
The Parliaments resolution on the Balkans criticises the fact that women remain under-represented in the labour market as well as in economic and political decision making; it notes that in some states of the region, women entrepreneurs are frequently discriminated against when trying to secure loans or credit for their businesses; it also notes that 30 % of the victims of cross-border trafficking in human beings in the EU are nationals of Balkan countries, whereas women and girls comprise the bulk of the victims detected. Other issues of concern are, among others, domestic violence and discrimination against Roma women. The recommendations set out in the document are to be taken into account during the negotiations that will bring these countries closer to the European Union (namely Croatia, which will soon enter the EU, as well as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia).
(Sir Europe - Strasbourg) - The European Parliament considers that women play an essential role in stabilisation and conflict resolution, which is crucial to reconciliation in the Balkan region as a whole; likewise, it underlines the importance of access to justice for women victims of wartime crimes, in particular rape. These two passages are from the resolution on womens rights in the Balkans drafted by MEP Marije Cornelissen, which is to be discussed by the parliament at the beginning of todays plenary. The document highlights the essential contribution of women to the progress of these countries and, at the same time, criticises their failure to guarantee the implementation of the social and individual rights of the female population. The text extensively describes womens conditions in every single country and indicates measures to be taken in each of them. It notes with concern that the population in most countries is not fully aware of the existing legislation and policies to promote gender equality and womens rights and underlines the importance of awareness-raising campaigns in the fight against stereotypes, discrimination (gender-based, cultural, religion-based) and domestic violence. (continued)
Later today, the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church that represents the most important Scottish religion with half a million members, will vote to give the go-ahead to the ordination of gay pastors. In a report drawn up by a theological committee in two years work, the Church of Scotland reiterates that the only proper expression of sexual activity should be within the marriage of a man and a woman, but it leaves it to the general assembly to take a final decision about the ordination of gay pastors. The outcome of the voting is not certain, a spokesperson for the Church of Scotland explained to SIR Europe: At any rate, measures are in place to protect the opposing congregations, that may ask to be taken care of by heterosexual priests. Two important congregations, that of St. George Tron, in Glasgow, and that of Gilcomston, in Aberdeen, left the Church of Scotland as they were against gay pastors.
Theres been massive opposition to this law from ordinary people, because the government forced it through Parliament without a real consultation process, and people are rebelling. In the run-up to binding vote on the law that should give the go-ahead to gay marriage, at the House of Commons of Westminster, tomorrow, Andrea Minichiello Williams, spokesperson for Christian Concern, a pro-life association, expresses the frustration of the Christian world that pointlessly tried to stop the new bill. In the last few months, both the Catholic and the Anglican Church defended the institution of marriage as the permanent union of a man and a woman, open to children, and last week the Catholic Primate, Vincent Nichols, and the archbishop, Peter Smith, urged the MEPs to think again about the consequences of the law, writing in a release that many people do not think it should be up to the State to try to change the fundamental meaning of marriage. The Coalition for marriage, an association supported by the Catholic Church and by the other Christian Churches, has put together 659 thousand signatures against the new law. The legislation had been passed with a majority of 225 votes when it was first voted on the by the House of Commons last February, but David Cameron had to resort to Liberal Democrat and Labour votes because nearly half the Tories had voted against it.
(Sir Europe - Strasbourg) - Tax policy and fight against tax evasion, energy issues, economic and monetary Union. These are the three main items on the agenda of the European Council on 22nd May, the highlight of the European week. The leaders of the 27 member states will be meeting in Brussels to develop a common tax strategy, with a view to achieving more equality as well as a better sharing of the tax burden, one of the factors that are slowing down economic recovery. The usual energy problems are back: differentiation of sources, renewable energy, common energy policies with supplier countries, investments in infrastructure. The economic and monetary Union, as well as the baking Union, will be discussed in the run-up to the next June summit, which will be focussed once again on support to growth-boosting reforms and investments. The items on the agenda of this weeks summit will also be discussed by the European Parliament, which is gathered in its plenary session in the Strasbourg premises from today. The MEPs will urge the member states to increase their efforts to fight tax havens and improve tax collection. Several other issues will be discussed at the plenary session: the banking supervision package, priorities in trade negotiations with the United States, freedom of the media, Europe-wide protection of victims of stalking.
Overcoming fear, renouncing our plans and comfort in order to become open to the horizons of God; and saying no to what brings division, to parallel journeys which lead to division. This is the invitation that Pope Francis addressed to the members of movements, new communities and lay associations from all over the world who travelled to Rome to attended Mass in St. Peters Square yesterday morning (Pentecost Sunday) on the occasion of the Year of Faith. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control. For this reason, we fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. However, throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he always brings newness and demands our complete trust. In the Church - the Pontiff continued -, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony, awakening diversity, while at the same time building unity. Therefore, journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. Beware, parallel journeys are very dangerous!. Finally, the Holy Spirit is the soul of mission who makes us look to the horizon and drives us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ.