August 2021 #2 – Churches react to UN climate report.

Welcome to this week’s European Churches Chronicle, your premier source for weekly news on churches in Europe. Free, in your inbox, every Friday.

News in brief.

World Council of Churches prayers for people affected by wildfires. In a series of pastoral letters, acting WCC general secretary Ioan Sauca extended prayers to the millions of people affected by recent fires in Europe and America. The letters noted that the fires “are part of the extreme phenomena increasingly observed as a consequence of climate change. Human-induced climate change is accelerating and is fundamentally changing our only planetary home.”

Churches urge action in response to UN report on climate change. In response to the UN report, the World Council of Churches said “the signs of the times have never been clearer”. The Lutheran World Federation said the report was “yet another confirmation that the climate crisis facing the world is the most crucial existential challenge of our time.” The Church of England’s lead bishop for the environment, Graham Usher, said the message of the UN report is loud and clear: ‘Wake up world!’”

German Protestant Church (EKD) supporting ethical supply chain legislation. The EKD has published a paper offering theological and ethical support for legislation currently being considered in Germany that would commit companies to ensuring their foreign suppliers adhere to standards of human rights and environmental protection.

Spotlight on Biarritz. Pinpoint symbol containing a photograph of lifesavers and people on the beach in Biarritz.

Spotlight on Biarritz.

Église Sainte-Eugénie (Pl. Sainte-Eugénie). Built in the early 1900s, the neo-Gothic grey stone church overlooks the old port. The beautiful stained-glass windows are by renowned painter and illustrator, Luc-Olivier Merson

Chapelle Impériale (Rue des Cent Gardes). Built in honour of Empress Eugenie, this pretty chapel combines Romanesque-Byzantine and Hispano-Moorish architectural styles and is filled with striking mosaics, including a large depiction of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Mass is celebrated four times a year in the chapel: 9 January, to commemorate the death of Napoleon III; 1 June, the anniversary of the death of the emperor’s son, the Prince Imperial, in the Anglo-Zulu War; 11 July, in commemoration of the death of Empress Eugénie; 12 December, on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Église Alexandre Newsky (8 Av. de l’Impératrice). This characteristically Russian Orthodox church on the Grande Plage, was built in the 1920s by emigres from the Russian Revolution. Many of the icons in the church were brought by the emigres from St Petersburg. 

Église Saint-Martin (Rue Saint-Martin). This Gothic-style church overlooking the sea is noted for its stained glass windows and for several English graves, reflecting the long history of English visitors to Biarritz. 

Biarritz Anglican Church meets in the chapel of another Roman Catholic Church, St Joseph’s (9 Avenue Victor Hugo). There have been Church of England services in Biarritz since 1854, and a dedicated English church building was consecrated in 1861, with a new larger church with rectory being opened in 1878. The Anglican church now uses a chapel of the Roman Catholic Saint Joseph’s Church. Currently the church does not have a full-time priest, but a Church of England priest visits once a month to take a Holy Communion service.

Image of Maximilian Kolbe in Franciscan monk's habit, drawing of Virgin Mary and child in background and barbed wire.

Saint of the week: Maximilian Kolbe.

The Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, and Church of England commemorate Maximilian Kolbe on 14 August. 

Born in 1894 in Poland, Kolbe joined a Franciscan monastery in 1907, and obtained doctorates in philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained in 1918 and returned to Poland where he taught at the Krakow Seminary and founded a religious publishing press. He also founded a new Franciscan monastery.

In the early 1930s, Kolbe traveled to China, Japan and India. He founded a Franciscan monastery near Nagasaki, and another monastery in Malabar, India. He returned to Poland, and, following the German invasion, for a while was able to continue running his monastery, providing sanctuary for refugees. In 1941, however, he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz.

In July 1941, he volunteered to take the place of a man about to be executed. Kolbe was murdered on 14 August, the day before the feast day of the Assumption of Mary, which many have noted was significant because of his lifelong connection to the Virgin Mary, who had appeared to him in a vision when he was a child. Kolbe is the patron saint of journalists, political prisoners, drug addicts. Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man Kolbe saved at Auschwitz, survived and was present at the canonization ceremony for Kolbe in 1982.

Picture credits. Karim Ben Van; graphic design by European Churches Chronicle.

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