'Love Is The Only Light', Message Of 2008 Collection For Church In Central And Eastern Europe
WASHINGTON – 'Love is the only light' is the theme for the 2008 Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. This year, the Collection will be conducted by most Catholic parishes on February 6, Ash Wednesday, or the First Sunday of Lent immediately following. The message draws on Benedict XVI's first encyclical, God is Love. In the letter the Pope writes, "Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working."
The 2008 Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe offers an opportunity to participate in a spiritual revival unlike any other. Through the Collection, Catholics in the United States help to build parishes in many distant places, such as Magadan, Russia, a part of the world where prisoners of the Stalinist labor camps once had to fashion rosaries from bits of their bread rations, or new Catholic schools in war-torn areas such as Kosovo, which are beginning to ensure a lasting peace. Generous donations support seminaries, social service programs, youth ministry, pastoral centers, church construction and renovation, and the spreading of the Gospel message through the mass media.
Shortly after the fall of Communism, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe as the Church tried to regain its footing in countries where it had been driven underground for decades. Those who had sought to destroy the Church under Communist rule left a terrible trail of devastation. Priests, bishops, and lay leaders were imprisoned. Books and religious education materials all but disappeared. Convents, schools, seminaries, and other Church properties were often left in shambles or were converted to other uses.
"As a result of this severe repression, the bishops of the region today face the formidable tasks of restoring church structures and, more importantly, of rebuilding the spiritual centers of their communities. Now more than ever, the ecclesial needs of Catholics in Central and Eastern Europe must be tenderly cared for," said Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.
Since 1991, the Collection has provided more than $100 million to Catholics in post-Communist Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. These funds have supported more than 3,500 Church projects in more than 25 countries.
The needs are great. Many of these countries continue to experience serious economic problems. Rampant poverty hinders church rebuilding and catechetical efforts. While the people hunger for spiritual sustenance, educational materials are in short supply, seminaries and convents are desperately short of funds to train eager young men and women, and schools are waiting to be built and launched.
"The story of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is a story of vitality and growth, a story of steadfastness and hope. Where darkness once seemed to reign, the light of love has broken through," said Jesuit father James M. McCann, executive director of the Collection for the Church in Eastern Europe.
For fascinating stories about the Church in Eastern Europe and for more information, please visit the Collection's web site at www.aidtoeasterneurope.org or contact Father James McCann at 202-541-3400.