Bishops’ Conferences of South-east Europe prepare for Madrid

With just a few months to go until the start of XXVI World Youth Day (Madrid, 16-21 August 2011), the topic of pastoral care with young people will be at the heart of the reflections for the 11th meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of South-east Europe which this year will take place in Nicosia on the island of Cyprus (3-6 March 2011) at the invitation of His Grace Mgr Youssef Soueif, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus.
Published: 4. 3. 2011 15:45

Nicosia (CY): Nine Bishops’ Conferences will be represented: Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Moldova, Romania, the SS Cyril and Methodius International Conference, and Turkey. In the course of the meeting, under the auspices of the CCEE, the Council of European Bishops Conferences, there will also be interventions from His Beatitude the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II; His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal; the Apostolic Nuncio, His Grace Mgr Antonio Franco; the representative of the Maronite Patriarchate, His Grace Mgr Guy Noujaim; and the Holy See’s Permanent Observer at the Council of Europe, Mgr Aldo Giordano.

The main topic will be introduced by Rev. Eric Jacquinet, in charge of the Youth Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and by Rev. Francesco Pierpaoli, Director of the John Paul II Centre in Loreto, and there will then be reports from the individual Bishops’ Conferences.

"Through this meeting we want to examine what tools and methods our Bishops’ Conferences have put in place for young people. To proclaim Christ today to a young person belonging to a minority Church and having lived through a difficult history, marked by different forms of totalitarianism, which does not seems to be his or hers, and the child of a present full of social and national tensions, calls for love and a greater effort of understanding on our part, as pastors, but at the same time constitutes a richness for our Churches which feel reborn precisely by that vitality which is typical of young people", said His Lordship Mgr Franjo Komarica, Bishop of Banja Luka and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia Herzegovina. "Our Churches know that the future of these small communities of ours depends on their ability to interpret the meaningful questions of their young people and respond to them in a creative and above all truthful manner. Today, being a young Catholic in our countries is not easy, but it is a challenge rich with so many good opportunities. It means, on the one hand, accepting feeling ´different´ from the majority of the local people even up to the point of being discriminated against on an employment and social level, and, on the other hand, it means understanding better the content of a faith which brings certainty and joy to those who live it. For this reason, it is our task to put in place what is possible to help our young people to live, without an inferiority complex, and live their faith with dignity. That means showing them through word and testimony that they can live as Christians and that, despite the difficulties, it is worth following Jesus the true consoler and giver of real joy".

For the local Catholic Archbishop of the Maronites in Cyprus, His Grace Mgr Youssef Soueif, the Church’s concern for the young people on the island takes on particular connotations. "In Cyprus, the young people are really a sign of hope and life. They have a dynamism and a capacity to create a new world, a new mentality, based on the balance between awareness of their own identity and openness to difference. So", the Archbishop continued, "our primary task is to help them to be, yes, rooted in Maronite culture, but at the same time to be open to the richness of the diversity which manifests itself in the various cultures and communities present in Cyprus. Young Catholics, be they Maronite, Latin or of another rite, are therefore called to know their own identity and faith dimension. They are called to witness to the spirit of unity in love and service. Love of all people, openness to collaboration with everyone at human, social and spiritual levels in certain pastoral contexts and areas, are the elements which characterise our pastoral work with young people. We are particularly attentive", Mgr Soueif went on, "to this education in the culture of the other person, of difference, accepting diversity and working for the one society of Cyprus characterised by conviviality and multi-culturalism, in a system based on justice and peace . For this reason in Cyprus I would like all the houses of God (Churches, monasteries and mosques) to be open to everyone and be places of fraternity, reconciliation and peace. Therefore we are particularly committed to working with young people in the Maronite villages in the north of the island which provide an opportunity to inspire the younger generations to return to their villages. In the north of the island, the disappearance of the Maronite villages would be a great loss to the whole of Cypriot society".

The reflection on pastoral care with young people will have an appropriate conclusion with a celebration with young people and pastoral groups in the ‘Saint Maron’ school in Anthoupolis, on the evening of Saturday 5 March (beginning at 1930).

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