FRONT PAGE Strengthening the ties 2010, Istanbul European Capital of Culture According to certain media reports, this decision was unexpected. Its political repercussion is not a surprise, but let us remain on the cultural plane. For those living in this city, it's more than natural! In fact, it could be said that the ancient city of Constantinople shares the Christian roots of Europe. Starting from the Hagia Sofia Basilica, an unparalleled monument throughout the centuries, majestically overlooking the city, to the Saint Salvador of Chora Church, a small jewel, history is indelible. Indeed, all these prestigious monuments of priceless value today serve as museums, the vestiges of a bygone era. And an admonition to all those who want to conceal their past disregarding their own roots! Those who live in Turkey cannot avoid being impressed by the succession of the three empires, the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empire. All three strongly rooted in Europe. While today Istanbul harmoniously encompasses the two shores of the Bosphorus, building marvelous bridges towards the Asian region, its origins are nonetheless strongly anchored to the European area. The small local Christian community, inheritors of this long history, share these same long-dated European roots. How could we forget that from the first millennium the Christian world combated from Europe, on the two shores of the Golden Horn. The rupture between the two Churches, the Eastern and Western Church, was consumed on the European side of Constantinople. For a long time still, the right and the left shore of the Golden Horn represented a natural severance between the Byzantine and the Latin Churches. This was the situation encountered by the Ottoman conquerors in 1453, who skillfully negotiated with both sides. This year, during the World Week of Prayer for Christian unity, the various communities in Istanbul convened every day in a different church, composing a beautiful cultural and religious mosaic. This indicates that the Christian presence, however modest, is not foreign to the multicultural image of Istanbul, as the city's highest dignitaries have recalled on various circumstances. For this reason, also we, the Christians of Istanbul, receive this European cultural event with joy and wish to take part in it, in our own way. The Pauline Year that has just ended brought us a record number of pilgrims on the footsteps of Saint Paul, who came here to be regenerated at the fountainhead of the faith. Indeed, defining contemporary Turkey as the natural extension of what the Christians call Holy Land is not an overstatement. This can only but strengthen our ties with Europe, especially in its Christian dimension, and it's a joy and an honor for the Christians of Turkey to give their contribution to this cultural rapprochement. LOUIS PELÂTRE <br>apostolic vicar of Istanbul <bR>("Presence" n.2/2010) IRELAND Never again Benedict XVI meets the Irish bishops: paedophilia is a heinous crime and a grave sin While "errors of judgement and omissions" stand at the heart of the sexual abuse scandal in Ireland, "significant measures have now been taken to ensure the safety of children and young people" with the "commitment" to cooperation with state and Church authorities "to guarantee that the Church's standards, policies and procedures represent best practice in this area". It was reaffirmed by the Irish bishops at the end of their meeting with Benedict XVI and the cardinals of the Roman Curia in a communiqué released, in February 16th, by the Holy See Press Office. In the three sessions, two in February 15th and the last one, in 16th, Benedict XVI and the Irish bishops discussed the sexual abuse of children committed by Irish priests and religious. A sin which offends God and the human person. According to the statement, "each of the Irish Bishops offered his own observations and suggestions. The Bishops spoke frankly of the sense of pain and anger, betrayal, scandal and shame expressed to them on numerous occasions by those who had been abused". "For his part - continues the communiqué -, the Holy Father observed that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person" and urged the bishops to "address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage". Benedict XVI also expressed "the hope that the present meeting would help to unify the Bishops and enable them to speak with one voice in identifying concrete steps aimed at bringing healing to those who had been abused, encouraging a renewal of faith in Christ". The statement reports that "the Holy Father also pointed to the more general crisis of faith affecting the Church and he linked that to the lack of respect for the human person and how the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors". Hence Benedict XVI stressed the need for "a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed". The communiqué of the Holy See Press Office also reports that the Irish Bishops had the opportunity to discuss with the Pontiff a draft of the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father to the Catholics of Ireland that will be issued during the coming season of Lent. "Frank and open" meeting". Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, spoke of "a frank and open meeting" during the final press conference held at Vatican Radio on the afternoon of 16 February. Emphasizing "the strong encouragement" received "from the Pope and the cardinals of the Roman Curia in managing this difficult situation by deepening dialogue with the victims [of child abuse], supporting them, and dedicating ourselves to the spiritual renewal that is the best defence of the dignity of the human person", Cardinal Brady reaffirmed that his Church "intends to collaborate closely with the judicial authorities" and pointed out that the meeting with the Holy Father was not intended to produce "any indication of specific measures", but "to offer to the Pope some suggestions to help him put the finishing touches to his imminent Pastoral Letter". "The victims remain our priority and must have the final word - continued Cardinal Brady -. To regain our credibility we must be ready to support humiliation and bear witness with our life to the faith we proclaim". With regard to the papal appeal for unity, the Primate gave his assurance: "Our unity has never been so deep; in these two days we have experienced almost a mini-synod". Learning how to share. The Most Rev. Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, observed: "We prepared ourselves very seriously for this meeting and we found great openness in the Pope. He is a wonderful listener and answers every question". "We deserve and we accept the anger of the victims and their families - maintained the Bishop of Ferns, Dennis Brennan -. We have in many cases managed this crisis badly, but the Pope's encouragement is a source of great consolation for us". "We come from a secretive culture - admitted Bishop Duffy -, but now we must learn the sharing in spirit not only of unity but also of truth and humility. Bishop Michael Smith of Meath underlined the fact that counselling centres are active in the dioceses and that "hundreds of people are involved in the protection of children and to prevent any repetition of the abuses". The Irish bishops also explained that the question of resignations is the competence not of the Irish Church but of the Holy See. Replying to a journalist who had asked about a possible visit of the Pope to Ireland, Cardinal Brady concluded: "I invited him many months ago. On this occasion there was no time to speak about it". IRELAND Humility and faith Recovering from the tragedy of paedophilia The Irish bishops had intensive talks and consultations with Benedict XVI on 15 and 16 February to discuss together with him the "very difficult situation" in which the Catholic Church of Ireland finds itself following the publication of two government Reports on abuses committed on children by ecclesiastical members in religious structures. The 24 Bishops of Ireland, accompanied by Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Bishops' Conference, participated in the meeting with the Holy Father. The Holy See was represented by high-ranking members of the Secretariat of State, and by the heads of some offices of the Roman Curia, Cardinals Re, Levada, Hummes, Rodé, Grocholewski and Archbishop Coccopalmerio, as well as the Apostolic Nuncio of Ireland. A time of affliction. "For the Church afflictions can come from outside or from inside. Both are painful, but those that come from inside are naturally harder and more humiliating to bear", said the Holy See's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in the homily he gave during the mass celebrated at the tomb of St. Peter below St. Peter's Basilica with the whole episcopate of Ireland, thus inaugurating the meeting that the 24 Irish Bishops would have with the Holy Father on the following day, 16 February. "You have come all together - said Cardinal Bertone - to listen to the Successor of Peter and to present to him your initiatives on the very difficult crisis that has developed in the Church of your country". For this, "we invoke in a particular way the Holy Spirit, so that this meeting may be full of charity in truth and arouse renewed commitment to communion and unity between the Pastors and with the faithful assigned to them". The Cardinal recalled that "affliction on the one hand humiliates, but on the other produces patience and a deepening of faith". And he added: "But it's not enough to be humiliated; we need to become humble in heart". "Only if we attain genuine and sincere humility - said Cardinal Bertone -, can God's grace act in depth and realize a true rebirth". Only "God's infinite mercy" "can fill the deepest abyss. It can do so, however, only if the sinner recognises his own guilt in the fullness of truth". The Secretary of State then warned the Irish episcopate against "another temptation": "that which makes us lose our faith in God, and plunges us into a state of discouragement and despair". And he added: "Yes, storms are fearful. Even those that shake the vessel of the Church due to the sins of her members. But from these storms, by the grace of Christ, may spring the grace of conversion and a greater faith: when all our security has crumbled and we feel ourselves lost, it is easier to entrust ourselves totally to Him, the Lord". So the Secretary of State's advice to the bishops of Ireland is that of seeking roots in "humility and faith": "that - he concluded - is what the Lord expects of us". The Pope's concern. "I've come to Rome many times in my life, but never with the many prayers that accompany me this time. I know the same goes for the Holy Father and for the members of the Curia. This is the third meeting on this question in the space of seven months! I think the Holy Father is very concerned", said Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, describing the state of mind of the whole Irish episcopate in an interview with Vatican Radio during his visit to Rome. "This meeting - he continued - has had a very thorough preparation, but it's only one step in a very long process: let's hope that, on our return to Ireland, this will be translated into a process of repentance, renewal and reconciliation, for the good of everyone. Obviously, we are all aiming at the same objective, which is that of protecting children. We are also in agreement on the points that the Holy Father presented to us during our 'ad Limina' visit, which will need to be carefully studied by all those involved". Listening to the victims. The Irish bishops had prepared for the meeting with the Holy Father by meeting the representatives of four associations of the survivors of abuses at Maynooth (near Dublin) last week (7 February). With the spokesmen of these associations - "Right to Peace", "Alliance Support Group", "Irish Soca" and "Right of Place" - the bishops discussed "the ongoing concerns of survivors" with the intention - explains a press release of the Irish Bishops' Conference - to "relay these concerns to Pope Benedict XVI both verbally and in the form of the written submissions which were presented to us today by survivors and which directly represent their views". During that meeting it was also agreed that a representative group of bishops would continue to meet with survivors. This is not the first time the Holy Father has met the Irish bishops. He did so already on 11 December last year, when he had a meeting in the Vatican with Cardinal Sean Brady, Metropolitan Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and the Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin. THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA The "dying seed" Interview with Msgr. Anton Cosa, bishop of Chisinau Moldova's delicate political situation consists in the fact that the post of the President of the Republic has been vacant for over one year. Poverty and migration outflow, mostly women, along with the tragic situation of the children left alone in their homeland; the phenomenon of human trafficking and "sexual tourism". Msgr. Anton Cosa, bishop of Chisinau addressed these themes in the interview with SIR Europe. We contacted him during the "ad limina apostolorum" visit to Rome, with 16 Romanian bishops of Roman and Greek Catholic rite, where they met with Pope Benedict XVI. On February 25-28 Chisinau will host the Meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops´ Conferences of South-East Europe titled: "The rights of Catholics in those areas where they are a minority. The contribution of Catholics to the accomplishment of the common good across society: difficulties and challenges". How is the political situation in the Country after the tragic events linked to last year's elections? "What happened in Moldova past April represented a moment of change in the country, confirmed by the outcome of the past elections, with the defeat of the Communist Party, whose positive turnout at the polls was beat by the opposing four-party coalition launched in the electoral campaign, now installed in the Government. Unfortunately stability is yet to be achieved, since the Parliament failed to elect the President of the Republic, whose post has been vacant for almost a year. New elections are due to be called after the summer. The Government in-office clearly voiced EU adhesion, thus seeking an ally in the European Union. However, the historical ties with Russia linger on, and in the popular view it still constitutes a point of reference". Which aspect of poverty are you most concerned by? "Moldova is experiencing a moment of crisis, just like most European countries, even though it is viewed as a Country of reference for the delocalization of European investments, where Italy ranks first. Moldova's Ministry of Economy a few days ago announced a timid recovery. But local economy certainly depends on immigrants' remittance - a quarter of the overall population lives abroad -. Indeed, it has always constituted the domestic product, involving the agricultural and real estate sectors along with the small industry. But it did not succeed in lowering the threshold of poverty, since a quarter of the population lives in conditions of serious social discomfort. The local population considers migration as the primary objective, mostly to Russia and Italy. The Italian Embassy in Chisinau released as many as twenty-five thousand visas to Moldovan citizens. The pressure of migration is due to the fact that the population is afraid of becoming poor, considering that the average monthly salary amounts to one hundred eighty two euros. The youth is also affected by social poverty. They are the 'social orphans', since their mothers work as caregivers in Italy. Each caregiver in Italy is a missing mother in a Moldovan family. We must not forget that women represent 68% of all migrants. The elderly also constitute a tragically poor social bracket; they represent the forgotten and abandoned past. The extent of the Moldovan Catholic Church's commitment in these fields of action can be easily imagined". What can you tell us about human trafficking? What is your appeal? "The phenomenon of human trafficking, notably for sexual purposes, is the major affliction of this beautiful country. A large number of young women fall victims of criminal organizations and are dumped on the streets of Europe by ruthless individuals. The Catholic Church in Moldova has been devoting her energies to combating human trafficking. The praiseworthy work of the Regina Pacis Foundation in the streets, in the dialogue with students and politicians, which led to the successful return home of many young people to whom the Foundation provided employment, is but an example. This phenomenon is no longer as widespread as it once was, also thanks to the pastoral work on the streets. I feel I must make an appeal to Europe: let us not wait for these young girls to become the victims of the streets before we remember about their existence. We must provide them with out support in Moldova, transmitting them infinite hope. Human trafficking decrease was followed by a surge in sexual tourism. In fact, Moldova is one of the destinations of woman trafficking. The Catholic Church is presently engaged in prizing the concept of female dignity and readdressing femininity as a value". What does Moldova's population need the most? "Today Moldovans wish to expand their relations and contacts. They want to emerge from the limiting dimension of a country that has been the periphery of the Soviet Union for far too long. The Moldovan people yearn to learn more about Europe and about the Church's role in the various Europeanization processes. They long to be taught the Gospel and be imparted catechesis or be involved in dialogue with learned priests. They would like to have oratories to keep the youth off the streets, within safe environments, along with charity works that would bring bread and hope. They yearn for educational projects and new education tools in kindergartens and primary schools. They're seeking certainties, and they are well aware that the Catholic Church, thanks to the ongoing commitment of priests and religious, can provide these certainties without demanding that they relinquish their Orthodox creed". What does it mean to be a minority Church? "Catholics in Moldova constitute approximately 1% of the overall population. The Catholic Church in Moldova is a minority religion. But being a minority is also a great opportunity and certainly it is also a great gift of God, since it educates to the humbleness of pastoral care, whose effectiveness depends on individual credibility. Those who draw close and choose to be members of the Catholic Church are motivated by the novelty of the proposal, by the Catholic Church's concrete commitments and consistency, which is in accordance with evangelical choices. Oftentimes, the life choices and commitments of individuals are pointed at, and diversity, stemming from sacrifice and coherence, transforms the minority group into a "dying seed". Today, the Catholic Church in Moldova is sowing her seeds. However, the fruits will be collected by other pastors and at a different moment in history. We must not fear being a minority, since it is a great gift of God. But we must fear becoming the "dying seed", thus preventing Moldovan population from receiving what they justly ought to receive from us in order to grow in their human and Christian dimension". What do you expect from Europe? "Moldova is looking forward to entering Europe. Today it's just a proximity State. It represents the border between the European Union and the ex-Soviet bloc. The path leading to Moldova's EU adhesion is still very long. The Country's domestic problems must urgently be solved, as demanded also by the EU. These are: the situation of the separatist region of Transnistria, the phenomena of corruption and illegal migration, the traceability of the borders with Romania and Ukraine, the enforcement of the rule of the law. These are very delicate problems, which a Country seeking EU-adhesion must address, at least by making clear choices. Moldovans would like to be free to circulate in Europe. However, they currently fall within the visa regime, despite the ratification of a facilitation agreement. EU membership requires preparatory actions, notably the elimination of pockets of poverty and the resolution of serious problems, for the benefit of the population. But Europe is expected to be the promoter of values, especially those concerning the protection of the family, the respect of life, democracy, and the respect of human dignity. Economic flow is insufficient, although it requires supervision, while political and social measures must be those of a Country that wishes to be viewed as 'democratic'". Fact sheet The Catholic Church is official in Moldova since 1993. The bishop was appointed in the year 2000. Currently a Diocese serves the Moldovan faithful, marked by a strong Christian tradition. Catholics in Moldova represent approximately 1% of the overall population. There are seventeen Parishes located across the Country, actively engaged in pastoral work. Owing to the presence of priests and religious of different nationalities, the "street pastoral care" provides help to the needy and offers skilled social service and assistance, dialogue and support to everyone. This efficient pastoral activity has brought the Moldovan population to learn more about the Catholic Church, notably the missionary engagement, which is not aimed at proselytism but at religious dialogue, mutual understanding, sharing of pastoral programs, and friendship: the springboard of all ecumenical activities. Some figures: on a population of four million people, some 20thousand are lay Catholics. Their religious counsel is granted by 18 diocesan priests and by 16 religious priests. There are 422 religious women and 17 parish churches. 5 students are undergoing their religious formation in the Seminary. CHRISTIAN CHURCHES Church of England, CEC, Bartholomew I Church of England: Rowan Williams to the Synod During a difficult meeting of the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, which met in London from 8 to 12 February, the Primate Rowan Williams gave a wide-ranging speech, touching on all the issues on the Synod's agenda. With regard to the Equality Bill, against discrimination, in particular discrimination against homosexuals, and on assisted suicide, the Archbishop said that "it is a mistake to grant to governments authority that could impact in other and even weightier areas" of life. On the question of assisted suicide he warned: "Once the possibility is there, it will not only be utilized by the smallish number of high-profile hard cases, but will also create an ethical framework in which the worthwhileness of some lives is undermined by the legal expression of what feels like public impatience with protracted dying and 'unproductive' lives". With regard to the "Anglican Communion Covenant", the document recently endorsed by Williams himself to seek to safeguard the unity of the Anglican Communion, Williams said with regard to the debate on women bishops: "Whatever we decide, we need to look for a resolution that allows some measure of continuing dignity and indeed liberty to all. It isn't enough to brush aside the problems some [people] find". The Archbishop of Canterbury thus invited the members of the Synod to try to see things in a "three-dimensional" spirit: that "requires us to take time". "It will deepen out desire to be fed and instructed by each other, so that we are all the more alarmed at the prospect of being separated". CEC: work group for reform The work group that the assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) appointed in Lyons last July to prepare the way for the reform of the CEC met for the second time in Berlin on 6-7 February. The 15 members have been asked to deliver to the Central Committee, by 31 December 2011, a document that formulates a plan for the "reform of the CEC as a whole, its basic objectives and general outlook". The timetable for the work had been defined in November: now the work group is preparing a document to be shared with the churches to analyse the situation in which the CEC is now operating with a view to defining its mission, vision and priorities. At its meeting in Berlin the group held a long meeting with the chairmen of the Church and Society, Migrants and Dialogue Commissions, as well as with the CEC's director of finance. These talks, says the press release, "had a strictly confidential form and were aimed at offering the work group a deeper understanding of the challenges, external and internal, that the European organization is facing". These challenges include not least the crisis that is also affecting the churches and having inevitable repercussions on the CEC itself, with the result, for example, that it cannot permit the replacement in the immediate future of Pastor Luca Negro who ended his term of employment as head of communications at Geneva in December. But there are also some "problems of authority", as Charbonnier defined them, which have to do with "difficulties between persons", but also "difficulties in defining priorities". An internal debate within the CEC has in fact long been opened on whether the offices in Brussels (the Church and Society Commission chaired by the Rev. Rudiger Noll), which follow the European institutions and 'lobby' on behalf of the churches, should magnetize the main economic and structural weight of the CEC, involving a transfer of the offices in Geneva as a whole to the European capital, or whether the priority should rather be in the dialogue between the churches on more strictly ecclesial and theological questions (now under the scrutiny of the Churches in Dialogue Commission, chaired by the Romanian Orthodox Viorel Ionita). The work group in Berlin "decided to continue the preparation of the two documents of analysis", says the communiqué, and in its forthcoming meetings "will discuss the question: why ought the CEC to exist in 2020?". A major concern for the group is the question of "transparency"; this has led it to open a website (www.cecrevision.dk) to provide a space for the suggestions of the churches on the CEC reform. The next meeting of the work group will be in Hungary in October. Lent: the message of Bartholomew Christians are called to live the time of the Great Lent with "a joyful attitude". For Lent is a "precious gift" given by God to "detoxify the soul" and liberate the body from everything that "is superfluous and harmful". So writes the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I in his message for Lent 2010. "Fasting, temperance, moderation, the curbing of desires, fervent prayer, confession and the other factors that characterize the period of the Great Lent - writes Bartholomew - must by no means be regarded as onerous duties, unbearable burdens, or a kind of forced labour that lead to discouragement or sorrow". Lent, after all, "teaches us to walk daily with a little bit less". It teaches us to eliminate "waste" and "ostentation". It calls us to ignore "the provocations of advertising" and to gain a better understanding of other people's needs. For this and for other reasons, we must live this period as a time of "genuine festivity and jubilation". THE FAMILY Europe is lagging behind The Church's commitment and the delay of the policy "Creating information and encounter platforms" between Church leaders, associations and movement representatives and individuals engaged in pro-life and family-defense initiatives in order "to plan clear, systematic and concrete interventions for the protection of the family, its values and its rights". This, according to Maria Teresa da Costa Macedo, Consultant of the Pontifical Council for the Family, former Secretary of State for the Family in the Portuguese government, is one of the major tasks of family pastoral care in a significant number of European countries. In the address delivered during the 19th plenary meeting of the Vatican dycastery, held February 8-10 on the theme of the rights of the child upon the 20th anniversary of the UN international convention (November 20 1989), da Costa provided a snapshot of the family in Europe, indicating a series of guidelines for pastoral care. Ranging between changes and criticality. In the entire continent, the expert said, "the family is the natural environment of human development". However, the family recently underwent changes affecting its "lifestyle" and "set of values". There are two major aspects of this transformation, which are due to political, economic, and social reasons. These are, "Women's increased independence and their professional engagement", accompanied by an "ambivalent" male role "in the family and across society", Costa said. Furthermore, "the political sphere is invading the social, economic and cultural" areas of society. "Invading the private sphere of individuals, of the family and of communities", affects their very "freedom and autonomy". Referring to an address delivered in Fatima by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, vice-President of the European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), on the situation of the family in Europe, de Costa spoke of the major concerns highlighted by His Eminence: the drop in the number of marriages, the increased divorce and cohabitation rates (mostly among the youth), the dramatic birth-rate decrease, the surging number of out-of-wedlock births, legalized unions and marriages between homosexuals (practiced in 6 out of 27 countries) along with the latter's eligibility to adoption, increasing single-parent households and the promotion of a 'gender-based' ideology". Informing and raising awareness. According to da Costa, European States "don't promote the defense and the protection of the family". Policies are aimed "at consecrating new claims, elevating them to the level of human rights, such as abortion, divorce, euthanasia, same-sex marriages" reaching the point of demanding that they be granted legal recognition", she said. In this prevailing "anti-family and anti-life culture", she cautioned, "lobbies which seek to transform male and female identity break-up, euthanasia, genetic selection, and birth-control programs as the signs of modernity are gaining ground within parliaments and governments". This is why "it's important to spread accurate information that will influence decision-makers, politicians, and the media". The latter in particular, often campaign "against life and the family, producing information aimed at triggering emotions rather than prompting reflection". A culture of life. In this scenario, continues da Costa, most European bishops' Conferences "presented new pastoral models for the family, more updated and dynamic". Notwithstanding national peculiarities, the bishops of the continent believe that the pastoral initiative ought to focus upon "three axes that will promote and defend human dignity, the sanctity of the marriage sacrament, the inviolability of life and the family". Faced with scientific embryo research, reproductive and/or therapeutic cloning and euthanasia the promotion of "a pro-life culture" is decisive, said da Costa. Hence it is important "that ecclesial community leaders provide the appropriate responses to cultural, social and political proposals on these themes" so as to prevent "misunderstandings and uncertainties which often determine Christians' lack of participation, precisely when the view of the silent majority is crucial and often decisive". As John Paul II and Benedict XVI often said, the pastoral care of the family and life "ought to promote specific and accurate formation", notwithstanding the peculiar traits of each Country, and the different pastoral approaches. The common objective of "church and social mission" is to "promote the learned and dynamic participation of Christian faithful" while "acknowledging family citizenship and its fundamental role in the erection of a just society". EU PARLIAMENT The near and the far Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey: different timetables and processes for membership Proceeding with the negotiations, but with caution; demanding full compliance with the membership criteria (fixed at Copenhagen in 1993); and monitoring the EU's real "capacity for integration": in this light the European Parliament verified, during its last plenary (Strasbourg, 8-11 February), the state of progress of the dossiers of Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey. As far as Croatia is concerned, the negotiations could be concluded by the end of this year, with a view to full membership from 2011 or 2012. As for Macedonia, the European Council is now asked to discuss the opening of negotiations, while in the case of Ankara the doubts prevail over the certainties. Zagreb is on the right road. The debate in the European Parliament (EP) took place in the presence of Stefan Füle, new Commisioner for Englargement, and Diego López Garrido, representative of the Council, and in the light of the three reports prepared by the foreign affairs committee, drafted respectively by MEPs Hannes Swoboda (Croatia), Zoran Thaler (Macedonia) and Ria Oomen-Ruijten (Turkey). The debate led to the emergence of a "cross party" political majority substantially favourable to the continuation of the EU enlargement process, even though many problems, reservations and concerns were raised. The EP maintains, in the case of Croatia, that the negotiations "can be concluded in 2010"; a successful outcome of Croatia's membership application would also give "a positive impulse to the process of integration of the rest of the region of the western Balkans into Europe". Justice and frontiers. The message sent to the government of Zagreb is however clear: it is asked to "cooperate fully" with the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, permitting the Court's access to the documents to be used in the trials for war crimes. The accord reached between Slovenia and Croatia in September 2009 on procedures for the settlement of the border dispute between the two countries, however, "has given an impulse to the opening of all the remaining chapters and to a rapid advancement of the negotiations". Some "bilateral relations" with neighbouring states also remain to be resolved. The report lists them: restitution of properties confiscated during the Second World War and under the Communist regime; demarcation of frontiers; protection of refugees; and extradition of citizens in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Opening negotiations with Skopje. The EP expressed its satisfaction for the progress made by Macedonia, for which the Commission has already recommended the opening of membership negotiations. MEPs ask that the go-ahead be given as early as the summit of heads of state and of government of the 27 scheduled for the end of March. Remarking that the question of the name of the Balkan republic still remains open ("Macedonia" not being accepted by Greece), the EP invites Athens and Skopje to "redouble their efforts at the highest level to find a satisfactory solution for both sides", operating "under the auspices of the United Nations" and through the assistance of the EU itself in the negotiating process. Ankara remains far away… On the EU's relations with Turkey MEPs made various objections, considering that progress had stalled and reiterating the reforms that Ankara would have to undertake to enter the Union. That's why the Parliament recalls that "the opening of negotiations in 2005 represented a point of departure of a long-term and open-ended process". MEPs further pointed out that some of the provisions contained in the accord of association between the EU and Turkey have not yet been implemented, and that this risks compromising the whole negotiation process. But the objections raised more widely concern the role played and the power exerted by the army within Turkish democracy; relations with Cyprus; and the safeguard of minorities, with specific reference to the Kurds. On the other hand, MEPs "appreciate the diplomatic efforts undertaken to normalize relations with Armenia" and recognize "the role played by Turkey in regional security" between the Black Sea and the Middle East. The rights of women and of minorities. During the debate in the chamber, some speakers once again raised the question of inadequacies in the defence of the rights of women, workers and trades unions, ethnic and religious minorities in the country that straddles the continents of Europe and Asia. Yet the EP judges positively Turkey's signing of the intergovernmental accord on the Nabucco gas pipeline, "whose application - says the report adopted in the EP - remains one of the top priorities of the European Union in terms of energy security". That's why MEPs ask for the opening of the chapter on energy of the membership negotiations. At the present time 12 of the 35 negotiating chapters have been opened; the most recent, that on environmental issues, was opened in December 2009. Eu in Brief The European Parliament rejects the "Swift" agreement "The majority view in the European Parliament is that the correct balance between security, on the one hand, and the protection of civil liberties and fundamental rights, on the other, has not been achieved in the text put to us by the Council", said EP President Jerzy Buzek, commenting on MEP's no-vote on the processing and transfer of Financial Messaging Data from the European Union to the United States for purposes of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (SWIFT) in the European Parliament. The EP adopted the new regulations envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty and voted against the proposal of the States Council while endorsing, in the last plenary, the report drawn up by Dutch MEP Hennis-Plasschaert (378 votes in favour, 196 against, 31 abstentions). MEPs now ask "to renegotiate another long-term agreement in compliance with the Lisbon Treaty, notably the Charter of Fundamental Rights". MEPs' "concerns on the use of data have not been fully met". Buzek recalled also that the Lisbon Treaty has given MEPs "a right to veto over international agreements of this kind". The first woman to be elected CoR President Mercedes Bresso, chair of the Piemonte Region (Italy) is the first woman to be elected President of the Council of Regions (consultative organ of the European Union) by 344 members of the Assembly representing EU27 cities and local authorities. She underlined the mission of the CoR (www.cor.europa.eu), "to effectively represent the common interest of all sub-national authorities in Europe", and added, "The institutional debate is over. It's time to bring the Treaty of Lisbon to life. We will no longer just ask that regional and local authorities are taken into consideration. We will not just be the yes-man. We will enter the political debate with substantial proposals and we will not - if it is required - shy away from political controversy." Former MEP and member of the Committee for several years, in her programmatic speech she underlined a series of priorities which include "the improvement of Europe's cohesion policy and by no means, its renationalisation - the integration of regional and local interests in the debate on the EU's financial perspectives; the successful implementation of the new legal instrument of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC); the launch of an overhauled Lisbon strategy. Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso from the Murcia region in Spain was elected vice-President. He will replace Bresso as president in 2012. Migrants' remittance: 32 billion per year EU27 migrants' "remittance" amounts to 32 billion euro (figures refer to the end of 2008), compared to 19.4 bn in 2004. Two thirds of the total outflow involves extra-EU27 countries. "The increase in workers' remittances over recent years was mainly due to a sharp rise in extra-EU27 flows (from 11.5 bn in 2004 to 22.5 bn in 2008" related to EU immigration increase. Conversely, "intra-EU27 flows rose less rapidly" (from 7.9 bn to 9.3 bn in the past five years). "Consequently, the share of extra-EU27 remittances in the total has risen from 59% in 2004 to 71% in 2008". "Two thirds of the total outflow of workers' remittances from the EU27 came from Spain (7.8 bn euro), Italy (6.4), France (3.4) and Germany (3.1 bn)". Internet: the Executive calls to improve child safety A survey promoted by the EU Commission has shown that "50% of European teenagers give out personal information on the web which can remain online forever and can be seen by anybody". Following "Safer Internet Day" celebrated last week, the Executive welcomes "actions to protect children using social networking websites taken by the 20 companies who signed the Safer Social Networking Principles last year". Most of these companies "have empowered minors to tackle online risks by making it easier to change privacy settings, block users or delete unwanted comments and content". Yet more needs to be done to protect children online, the Commission says. "Minors' profiles need to be set to private by default and questions or abuse reports have to receive quick and appropriate responses", said Vice-President Viviane Reding.