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Eastern Europe

 

ACN Project of the Week—Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo, Bosnia

29.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eastern Europe, Pastoral aid, Pastoral care, Pastoral work, Religious formation

Project of the Week—Bosnia

Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo

By ACN International, Adapted by ACN Canada
Published online – November 29, 2019

Catholics are a minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina—now at a bare 14% of the population, and falling. This decline began during the Bosnian War (1992 to 1995) when half the Catholic population was expelled or forced to emigrate from the country. And with every new year, many continue their exodus as the future looks dim, owing to the discrimination they face when seeking employment, in attending schools and in regular social life. Catholic bishops have been complaining for years that Catholic Croat families who would otherwise be willing to return are not receiving the support they are entitled to. At the same time, a growing Islamization of the society is very noticeable, with the building of numerous new mosques.

 

The Catholic Church continues to work hard for a better future, through its reconciliation work, its schools and its charitable work, all of which are open to people of all ethnic groups. At the same time, the Church strives to offer steady employment opportunities that will provide families with some prospect for the future. One beautiful example of reconciliation work is the John Paul II Youth Centre in Sarajevo, offering a range of initiatives for promoting interfaith and interdenominational dialogue.

Spiritual Retreats, Pilgrimages and Interfaith Dialogue

Each year thousands of young people benefit from a broad range of programs offered by the centre. Their enthusiasm remains as they return with great energy to their own parishes to work with a renewed faith for a better future. The centre also offers employment, with 10 full-time positions and 10 part-time positions, providing these men and women with a steady income and a future for their families. An additional 300 volunteers help out as needed. Training in leadership is available along with courses in spiritual exercises for confirmation candidates, volunteers, altar servers and other types of youth groups. An ecumenical program is in place for young people of different faiths to learn about shared responsibility and how to create a better future in the society in which they live. Those attending come not only from the archdiocese of Sarajevo (Vrhbosna) itself, but from all over the country.

Other big events are have been organized, such as a large youth pilgrimage in May to the Shrine of Our Lady in Kondzilo,  which was attended again this year by well over 3,000 young people. A music festival, with modern Christian music, and a young people’s Way of the Cross procession giving hundreds of youth from individual parishes the opportunity to gather together in shared faith.

 

ACN recognizes the valuable work done by this youth centre named for the great Pope, Saint John Paul II. The Saint who held such great affection for young people, established the very first World Youth Days during his pontificate. This year we are helping once again, with a promised contribution of $37,500.

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

 ACN Project of the Week – Bosnia-Herzegovina – Construction

05.06.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Bosnia Herzegovina, Eastern Europe, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

 ACN Project of the Week – Bosnia-Herzegovina – Construction

By ACN International
Published on-line, June 5, 2019

Bosnia-Herzegovina

The St John Paul II Youth Pastoral Center: a tremendous success!

In 2015, the Pope John Paul II Youth Pastoral Centre was first established in Sarajevo, the capital of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is open to all young people, without distinction as to faith or ethnic origin. It was formally blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II, for whom young people were especially important and who introduced many lasting initiatives for the young, most notably of course, the World Youth Days.


The centre has been a great success. Every year around 10,000 young people aged 10 and over have taken part in the pastoral meetings, training sessions and leisure activities held there. The slogan of the centre is “Encounter and Reconciliation – Shaping Peace and a Future Together.” The centre has 20 full-time staff, working together with around 300 volunteers on the many pastoral activities offered. The foundation of the centre was supported by ACN with a contribution of 750,000 dollars.

A fragile Church

The young people who become involved with the Saint John Paul II centre are often also very active in their own home parishes, further proof that it is possible to live together peaceably in this country, to find work, establish a family and build up a happy life. Part of the goal is also to promote interaction and cooperation among all the different ethnic groups and religions in the country, thereby building bridges for a peaceful future. Such youth work is especially important, not only for a better future but also for the survival of the Church herself.

For as a result of the war in Bosnia (from 1992 to 1995) around half of all the 500,000 Catholic Croats living there were either expelled or voluntarily emigrated. Even today, around 10,000 people are leaving the country each year, among them many Catholics, because they find themselves discriminated against in the workplace, the schools and social life generally and can therefore see little future for themselves. But those young people who are deeply involved in their parish life tend to stay on and have faith in the future.

Now, however, the capacity of the centre in Sarajevo is not enough to cope with the high demand, and so a new centre has been opened in northern Bosnia, as a sort of branch centre. It can offer overnight accommodation to up to 10 people and likewise offers a wide range of activities, including such things as seminars for youth group leaders, interfaith and ecumenical initiatives and many more things besides. The grounds of the centre also have a farm, with animals and an orchard where the young people can work. The centre is already up and running, but there are still a number of finishing touches remaining to be done, especially in the bathrooms and toilet blocks.

Additionally, there is a plan to set up a sort of outdoor stage, with seating for open-air performances and the like. ACN is proposing to help with a contribution of $30,000, so that the work on the centre can be quickly completed.

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Feature Story: The Pope visits Bulgaria

17.05.2019 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Eastern Europe

Bulgaria

A heartfelt meeting in faith

One early Sunday morning in May, His Holiness, Pope Francis arrived in Bulgaria for his 29th trip abroad. During his two-day stay in Bulgaria, the Pope visited Sofia and Rakovski. The media was primarily interested in political and social issues such as migration or poverty; these were addressed. However, the leader of the Catholic Church is also a shepherd and travelled to Bulgaria to visit the people and to strengthen the minority group of Catholics.


By Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada

“In my opinion, our Catholics need to become more confident. It was a heartfelt meeting of the religions. I believe that it was also important for the Pope to see how strong our faith is,” explained Salesian Father Martin Jílek. The project partner of the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) had travelled the 230 kilometres from Stara Zagora to the capital city of Sofia.

Bulgaria’s population strongly identifies itself with the Christian faith, with 80 percent belonging to the Orthodox Church. Muslims make up the second largest group with about ten percent of the population. Catholics are a small minority. “In spite of this, there is a strong feeling of euphoria. A survey taken before the visit found that 54 percent of the population supports the Pope and his mission,” the missionary said.

Pope John XXIII: “The Bulgarian Pope”

For many, the joy of anticipation was dampened by the attitude taken by the Orthodox Church, which made a statement that it would not join the Holy Father in prayer. However, Father Jílek is certain “that this opinion is not shared by all Orthodox. The Bulgarians are open and tolerant people.” However, he did point out that patience would be necessary because ecumenism has yet to take root. “On a personal level, we have established a good relationship with Orthodox priests. Moreover, almost two million Bulgarians live in other countries and are well acquainted with the Catholic Church, especially that in western Europe. Our experiences have been very positive.”

The motto chosen for the trip, “Peace on Earth”, came somewhat as a surprise for those living in other countries; after all, Bulgaria has not drawn the attention of the West because of violence, as other Balkan states have, or because of war, as is the case for Ukraine. Father Jílek explained the background: “The motto ‘Peace on Earth’ was derived from the papal encyclical Pacem in terris, which was written by Pope John XXIII. He was the Apostolic Nuncio in Bulgaria from 1925 to 1935. This is why we call him the ‘Bulgarian’ Pope.”

According to Father Jílek, the motto shows that Bulgaria can be an example to others, because all the different religions and cultures have lived together in peace for many years. A number of minorities still live here in Bulgaria today.

Where God Speaks

One hundred people from Father Martin’s parish travelled to Sofia and 40 to Rakovski. Among them were about 20 boys from the Romani settlement. “This was, of course, a great opportunity for evangelization.” According to Father Jílek, almost all Bulgarians –can be said to be devout.

Unfortunately, none of the children from Stara Zagora took part in the First Communion Mass held at the Sacred Heart Church in Rakovski. “We have a group of ten young people and young families who are preparing themselves, but they are not ready and we don’t just want it to be a festive day with pretty pictures,” explained the priest. However, there was still cause for great joy because in Sofia, “our young people were able to assist during Holy Mass as volunteers.”

All of the participants were very enthusiastic upon their return. “The Pope also had a surprise for us. After Holy Mass, he unexpectedly went up to the young people to say a few words. The young people called out to the Pope very loudly and so he went to them, saying that in order for them to be able to hear, they needed to achieve silence in their own hearts. After all, that is where God speaks. Then he told them to go back to making a lot of noise.”

PopeSpeakingtotheYoung-Impromptu

Father Martin would like to thank the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need for their support for a large project: the construction of a new church and training centre. “In particular for the Romani children, but of course for all Bulgarians.” He would like to open a primary school in two years. “We are very thankful that we can feel the Church as a world Church. It is not only a source of financial aid for us, but also spiritual support. Who knows, one fine day we may be sending new priests and sisters from Bulgaria out into the world as missionaries. That is the dynamic of the Holy Spirit.”

  * Roma or Romanis, also called gypsies. It is estimated that they number approximately 14 million people worldwide, including eight to ten million in Europe.

ACN Project of the Week – Seminarians need help in Romania

15.05.2019 in ACN, ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Romania, SEMINARIANS

ACN Project of the Week in Romania

Seminarians are in need of us

The Greek-Catholic diocese of Oradea continues to rejoice at the high number of new priestly vocations. One of the most important contributing factors is the intensive family apostolate in the diocese. It has often been observed that families who play an active part in Church life, who truly live their faith, can provide very fertile soil for future priestly and religious vocations.

 

In 2017, the seminary in Oradea celebrated its 225th anniversary. In the 20th century, however, this long history was brutally interrupted by the communist persecution of the Church. And, it was not until after political changes were made, that young men were again able enter the seminary. A new beginning was far from easy – above all from an economic point of view.

ACN has been helping the reconstituted seminary in Oradea since 1993. And it still urgently needs our help because the immense poverty in this diocese.

Father Anton Cioba, the rector of the seminary, wrote to us. “Without help from abroad, we could not fulfill our mission. We continue to depend on your support and we thank you with all our hearts for the help you have already given us in the past. In doing so you are helping us to experience the universality of the Catholic Church. May God bless you and all our kind benefactors.”

 


We are helping the seminary once again with the training of its 54 seminarians with total of $48,600.

Catholics in Eastern Europe : their presence is essential

02.02.2018 in ACN International, Bosnia Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Karla Sponar

Catholics in Eastern Europe:

in great demand, when state and society offer few prospects

 

Who is still  paying attention to the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe. However, in many countries its situation continues to be difficult, at times oppressive and its commitment is often decisive in enabling coexistence. This came to the fore once more during the 23rd meeting of Catholic aid organizations for Eastern Europe that took place at the main office of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) near Frankfurt am Main. The meeting primarily focused on reports from south-east Europe, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, as well as the Czech Republic.

The contested eastern parts of the Ukraine continue to be the area that is in greatest need, with fatalities still being reported every single day. Remarkably enough, this has strengthened the solidarity of Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox in the troubled regions, as the director of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Tetiana Stawnychy, described during an informal talk.

A child in a church in Albania

The churches in Albania and Kosovo are among the poorest local Catholic churches in Eastern Europe. Catholics in Bosnia and Serbia are, moreover, in a difficult situation: the reality of life as a minority shapes the everyday life of believers. Pastoral offers are especially important for younger parish members, also because few have even begun to process the events that occurred during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s. Next to the economic problems, these are additional reasons why thousands continue to emigrate from these areas year after year.

 

Ray of hope in a beleaguered atmosphere

 

Initiatives of the churches are even more desperately needed in those areas where there is little public or state support for the work of reconciliation. At times, they are the only ray of hope in a beleaguered atmosphere. “We must therefore continue to strengthen local missionary work, which includes interfaith dialogue, reconciliation among the peoples and sociocultural education – also to ensure that radical Islam does not spread,” emphasized the spiritual assistant of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, Father Martin Barta, in reference to the ex-Soviet countries in Central Asia.

Securing the material needs of priests and religious in old age is an important topic, particularly in the Balkans, where the Catholic Church is in the minority. Representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania discussed solutions as part of the initiative “Piccolo Gregge” started by bishops from these regions, in order to be able to guarantee priests and religious at least basic health insurance and a minimal pension.

In addition to the above-mentioned aid organizations, the meeting was also attended by participants from the Conference of Catholic Bishops from Italy, Poland and the United States as well as the Porticus Foundation. All hope that a possible visit from the pope to the Baltic states will create additional impetus for the churches in eastern Europe.

Kosovo, March 2013
All the baptised after the ceremony in the cathedral of mother Teresa in Pristina.