Last year the diocese of Grodno celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation. The seminary had been completed a year earlier than that, in fact, when the Soviet Union was still in existence. In the seminary itself the jubilee of the diocese was celebrated on 3rd June, in the presence of the bishop. The very next day three young men were ordained to the priesthood and another to the diaconate. This too was an occasion of great joy. Father Roman Ratchko, the rector of the seminary, has written to thje Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) to say, "On this day of thanksgiving we were united with you in prayer and we asked God’s blessing on our friends, benefactors and on all those kind-hearted people who have helped us and remembered us in their prayers. Dear friends, we were thinking of you because you have done so much good for us over the course of many years.”  

Almost everywhere in Africa access to clean drinking water is a major problem. Hence to have your own well is a great blessing. But many people still have to get their water from rivers and other unsafe sources, and many die as a result from avoidable illnesses. 

Last year the diocese of Grodno celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation. The seminary had been completed a year earlier than that, in fact, when the Soviet Union was still in existence. In the seminary itself the jubilee of the diocese was celebrated on June 3rd , in the presence on the bishop. The very next day three young men were ordained to the priesthood and another to the diaconate. This too was an occasion of great joy. Fr Roman Ratchko, the rector of the seminary, wrote to the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, to say, “On this day of thanksgiving we were united with you in prayer and we asked God‘s blessing on our friends, benefactors and on all those kind-hearted people who have helped us and remembered us in their prayers. Dear friends, we were thinking of you because you have done so much good for us over the course of many years.“ 

The former Czechoslovakia was one of the countries in Eastern Europe where the Church was most brutally persecuted during the communist era. The Catholic faithful were subject to repression and reprisals, many priests were imprisoned or sent to labour camps, the convents were dissolved in 1950 and in a covert police operation, male and female religious were forcibly deported to "concentration convents" - isolated centres where they were deprived of all contact with the outside world. Church historian Vaclav Vasko has described these places as "nothing else but supervised concentration camps for religious". Nuns and sisters were urged to throw away their religious habits, in which case they were offered freedom and a chance to study. But almost all of them refused and remained faithful. 

Saint John the Merciful was renowned for his extraordinary love of the poor. Wherever he saw need, he endeavoured with all the means at his disposal to alleviate it. By the time he was finally appointed as Patriarch of Alexandria, he was already feeding 7,900 poor people daily. He died around the year 619 and is revered as a saint both by Catholic and by Orthodox Christians.

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