European Federation of Catholic Doctors
Bratislava (Slovakia) October 2010

Ian Jessiman

A flight to to Vienna is the recommended route to Bratislava, then 38 miles and an hour by bus. There is a pleasant ride through small towns and villages — with mediaeval overtones — in the rolling agricultural countryside of the Danube Valley. Bratislava Castle soon appears - large, white, square with corner towers - dominating the town (on the east side of the Danube) and the plain. We crossed the river to find Friday evening rush hour was as bad as anywhere else!

The Hotel Falkensteiner (no - not Frankenstein) was excellent, and Dr Glasa had arranged a favourable rate. My view was of the old town and a corner of the Castle above. Although on the fourth floor, I had a large opening window!

The Bureau (Council) of FEAMC was meeting at the Offices of the Bishops' Conference, an older building than our own Bishops' Conference, but nicely modernised.

We had Mass at 6 pm at the baroque Jesuit Church, just off the Main Square (Hlavné nam). It was 'Gregorian chant week' so much was in Latin, adequately sung by a choir of four. When we came out a full moon with a hazy halo, and the street lights, gave a romantic aura to the scene. Dinner at a local restaurant offered a range of Slovakian dishes and local wine (red or white).

We met again at 9am on the Saturday. The major item was a report from each national representative of the state of things in their Society and their plans for the future. Membership figures were interesting. Catalonia, Croatia, Italy and Poland have memberships of over 1000. Portugal has about 800. Slovakia underwent a very rapid revival after the end of communism but has now declined. UK seems larger than Belgium, France, Hungary, Germany or Switzerland! A number of countries struggle to keep going at all, including Holland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and the Nordic Countries.

I explained the reason for our name change and that we now admit members from other disciplines. It seemed that others had few innovative ideas for increasing membership and our plans for an improved website and IT system were in the vanguard.

At noon there was Mass in the Cathedral of St Martin, concelebrated by the Parish Priest and our chaplain, Bishop Pozaic (Zagreb). After some photographs we were shown the magnificent treasure of the Cathedral. In the 15th — 17th centuries Bratislava was capital of Hungary, and no less than 11 kings and 8 queens were crowned there. For this reason, too, there is an enormous crown at the top of the spire, which we saw at ground level for restoration and re-gilding. An innocent enquiry about a crane revealed that 'no', it would be replaced by 2 'alpinists' and some kind of lifting wheel!

After a generous lunch, cooked by the nuns in the seminary across the road, we returned to resume our meeting. Apart from routine matters we were delighted to note the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Resolution 1763 (2010)) to uphold the rights of conscience in lawful medical care. This, it was felt, should be widely publicised. The next important issue was the FEAMC congress due in 2012. There had been an invitation from Brussels for next year (2011) but it was thought better for the bureau (alone) to meet there and arrange a prepared meeting with Members of the European Parliament to present our concerns. Following an invitation from Italy, it was decided the next Congress would be in Rome in 2012.

The proceedings ended with the 'official' dinner at the 'Three Musketeers', a rustic themed restaurant both in ambience and food. The feast included a Slovakian hors d'oeuvre, wild boar and poppy seed pancakes, together with more local wine.

Ian Jessiman

The CMA needs a new delegate to the FEAMC. Dr Ian Jessiman will be pleased to provide details