News for prayer for Week of May 2, 2022

Much appreciation to Jeff for writing an extra news for prayer while we were out for family vacation. Thanks also to Jeff for all the years of writing the newsletter and providing us all with information on how to be in prayer for the Basque people. Wishing you well as you move into the next season of your life after all the years of service here in Basque Country. For the future, my plan is to write these twice a month.

Headline News:
For COVID it’s been a little over two weeks now that masks have been removed from being required indoors. For numbers, it’s hard to share anything as it’s not being reported on any more. The COVID news has almost gone away and it is hard to find much about the current situation.

The president of the Bishop’s council is working to provide protection to health care workers who want to consciously object for reasons of faith to abortions and euthanisims. The bishops produced a document on March 25 that expanded on the theme. The president commented that even in the military it is possible to be able to serve with a conscious objection to carrying a weapon, the same should be the case for healthcare workers. I normally do not read/talk about opinion columns. However I’m including one this time. The title was about the future of faith and the Church (Catholic). The opinion talks about how the area is waiting on a new bishop. In it he talks about waiting patiently for the new bishop and the importance of connecting with the next generation of believers. He talks about the confidence they should have in God to provide the right person to help address these areas and others as the church looks to impact the area. (I’d add in a bit about how you responded to reading this… )

Last weekend was Mother’s day here in Spain. The Sunday paper included several pages highlighting different mothers and the appreciation for them. An article was also written about birthing in Basque Country. 30% of babies born are from mothers outside of Spain, ~40% are born to mothers who are not married and the number of mothers over 40 increased by ~1.5%. They also shared that only ~65% of Basque under the age of 30 want kids, a 17% drop in the last 5 years.

Economy:
In Europe the unemployment numbers are at historic lows after the pandemic. The numbers in Spain however have not been recovering as well, they are also seeing high numbers (high unemployment rates?) for young workers.

This past Sunday the paper had an interview with a leader from the Central European Bank. Three key points from the article were about the current economic crisis and pensions. On the topic of pensions they said it was a political decision, though they have methods to help guarantee the system is sustainable. On the current economic situation, the comments were positive, though tough decisions need to be made to prevent a recession. A positive for Spain is they see it as a stronghold in the current situation versus a burden it had been in the past.

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 8584.20, a 0.79% drop for last week.

Political:
The leader of the Basque government has not left Spain for almost 3 years. The last trip was in August of 2019, when he traveled to the Vatican. Over the coming months he has plans to visit Japan, Corsica and Paris. An objective of the trip is to discuss political strategy with other international leaders.

In 2016 CNI (National Intelligence Center) for Spain purchased a license for Pegasus. This is software that allows you to spy on smartphones. Two weeks ago it was reported that this software was initially used to spy on Catalonian political leaders. However that was expanded in 2019 until now to include several other people. The CNI is now under investigation and lots of push back on the government about who has been spied on.

International:
The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to carry a large portion of international coverage. Immigration of Ukrainian refugees to Basque Country has been increasing. They are seeing that ~10% of them who came are starting to return home. The last number I’ve seen for immigration was ~3,250 in all of Basque Country. The paper also carried an article about the Roe vs Wade conversation with an article from a New York correspondent that shared a little historical context, current response and potential impacts. There was also a small article talking about the history of Roe vs Wade.

Sports:
Real Sociedad has had a tough stretch the past couple of weeks. Last week they played to a draw, then last night they lost 2-1. They have 3 games left in the season and are currently in 6th place.

GBC has won 2 games and lost 2 games since the last news for prayer. With three games to go the team is trying to move up one place in order to qualify for the playoffs. They are currently 2 points behind.

Real Sociedad women’s team for the first time in its history qualified to play in the Europa League. The team has been playing well over the past couple of years winning tournaments against other women’s teams in Spain. This will put them in the next level to compete against other women’s teams in Europe.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:
Those looking for employment
Catholic Church Leadership
Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the wide reaching impacts

The verse for this week was from a recent daily verse:

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
Romans 8:26 NLT

News for prayer for Week of February 7, 2022

The cover page images for the 4 papers last week were the following: Rafa Nadal after winning the Australian open for his 21st Grand Slam, restaurant owner removing the sign about needing COVID-19 passport after the TSJPV ruled against them and results of the Real Sociedad game against Betis. The Sunday front page had two focuses with the top portion focused on the 40th anniversary of Ertzaintza (Basque National Police) and the other was child refugees from Greece and Syria being taken care of in Gipuzkoa.

Headline News:

COVID continues to be in the news as the government attempts to transition to the next phase of the pandemic. The COVID passport had been in effect since December and the government was looking to extend the use of it for a bit longer. However the judicial system did not agree with the further usage & expansion, so last week the need for a COVID passport was removed completely. This was the seventh time the judicial system did not support the recommendations of the government. The government has also started the process of returning 2.5 million euros that were collected from the fines issued during the various State of Alarms that have now been ruled unconstitutional. The numbers for the 6th wave are beginning to trend down, though the map for Gipuzkoa still is showing all red. The demand for home tests continues to be consistent, and is much lower than what was seen in early January.

The catholic church had two headlines. The first was more coverage surrounding the investigations of the abuse that happened in the Church. They highlighted that in February 2019, 4 cases of sexual abuse were reported for Gipuzkoa. For two of the cases, the priests had already passed away, and the other two cases were sent to Rome for further investigation. Another article talked about ~50 cases that have been reported in the last 50 years for Basque Country. The Sunday paper included a two page interview with a Criminal Investigator from the Basque University. It was very direct and talked about several different aspects of the abuse that happened. It also included thoughts about the way forward for the people and the church. Another article had one victim who raised concerns about the current process and he believes that no investigation will happen. The other headline was that the current bishop had his last service on Sunday after being the ArchBishop for 12 years here. The church was at maximum capacity of 60% due to COVID and also had people outside protesting with posters. He will be moving to Alicante.

Economy:

The outlook for 2022 for the Basque economy continues to look good. They are expecting the GDP for the region to be between 4.5% and 6% for 2022. They believe that 5,000 new jobs will be created. They also acknowledged that some sectors are still needing help (Restaurants and tourism) and are looking for solutions as those businesses are still being impacted. Cost of energy was also listed as a concern as that will also impact the profit margins for companies. 

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 8,589.30, a 0.24% decrease for the week.

Political:

Two big political items were the focus last week. Both were items that were voted on in the Spanish legislature. The first were updates to housing laws, which were passed. It included protection for small home owners, incentives to help keep prices low, options for houses that are vacant and public housing. The measure was passed with the unity from the PSOE and Unidas Podemos parties. The second item was labor reform. For the past several weeks, it’s had at least one article in the paper. Effects from the labor reform impacted several areas: seasonal contracts, unemployment benefits, contracts for young people entering the workforce, among other areas. The measure barely passed with a 175-174 vote count. The headline talks of how a vote that made the decision was cast incorrectly telematically. This vote was from one of the senior leaders in the PP party, who have been vocal about not supporting the measure.

International:

Here are a few headlines from the international section over the week: The main focus was Russian & Ukraine border tension termed here: The ‘New Cold War’. Also included was the Portugal election with the surprise outcome and high voter turnout, the US attack against Hajji Abdullah, and a view from two different EU countries handling the COVID-19 pandemic: Denmark declaring the end versus Austria implementing fines for those unvaccinated.

Sports:

Real Sociedad played two games in the last week. The first was a King’s Cup match in which they played against Betis. The outcome was a 4-0 loss. With the loss that end’s Real’s attempt to win the King’s Cup in 2022. The other game was a LaLiga match where they played against Valencia, with the result being a 0-0 tie. That result left them in 7th place.

GBC had a game against Tau Castellón which was a 69-77 loss. They only scored 5 points during the third period of this game. The next game they played was against Almansa with the result of a 101-78 victory. The paper commented how it was a well played game for the team. The next game was against Real Valladolid, where the team secured another victory with a 85-71 victory. The team is currently in 6th place overall.

The Monday paper had a spotlight on Rafal’s career after his victory at  the Australian open. He is currently number 4 in overall career victories and 5th in the ATP rankings. I noted in the opening paragraph that he has 21 Grand Slam victories, along with a gold medal in the Olympics in both individual and doubles.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • COVID-19 and it’s continued impacts
  • 2022 Outlook for the Basque Economy
  • Basque and Spanish political leaders
  • Leaders in the catholic church

The verse for this week focused on our paths in life. I thought this verse fit well:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

News for prayer for Week of January 10, 2022

The cover page images for the 4 papers last week were the following: Results of the Real Soccer Game against Alavés and Celta, the start to sales season and the winning numbers for a lottery drawing.

Headline News:
COVID continues to be the main story for this region. COVID passport’s are required to enter restaurants, concerts and movie theaters. The responsibility is on the owners to perform the check. One day the paper shared that compliance was very low as they entered several different restaurants and only had 1 ask them for the passport. School also restarted after the Christmas/New Years/Three Kings holidays. As they started 11,000 students and 100s of teachers/staff were confined. The restrictions for what happens in classrooms continue to be revised. The Sunday paper broke down data from each of the 6 different waves, which was interesting to see. One data point to note is that the 6th wave has more positive cases than the 3rd, 4th and 5th waves combined. An interview with a local Psychologist discussed the many different mental affects the pandemic has/is having on people. Last week also saw the cancellation announcement of Tamborrada, a city wide celebration for San Sebastian, for the second year. The mayor communicated that it was a very difficult decision to make, though with the current situation it made sense for them to cancel as they believe it would be difficult to maintain the health protocols currently in place during the celebration.

The Bilbao diocese has opened 5 different investigations after a report that was released by ‘El País’ concerning the abuse of minors, who had collected ~250 reports for Spain. They have set up a commission consisting of 5 different people.  They will start by reviewing all the information that is currently available. Some of the incidents have only a little bit of information and a request was made for people to come forward. The diocese wants the truth to be known and ensure that the situations are addressed.

Economy:
Economic growth for the Basque region is currently projected to be higher than it was at pre-pandemic levels. The lowest levels in the pandemic were seen in the second quarter of 2020 at -19.9% and the highest was at 18.6%, which happened in the second quarter of 2021. The current government projects growth to be 6.7% for 2022. The result would be a ~700 million € increase from 2021 and be a record for the region. Energy cost, material shortages and inflation are areas that may impact the growth of the economy. Additionally the unemployment numbers have returned to better than before the pandemic. Those who are currently unemployed are finding it difficult to find a job.

The passing of José María Baztarrica, leader of the CAF (Construction & Other Railway Service) from 1995 to 2015 and his impact was remembered last week. Under his leadership the CAF grew considerably. When he started the company was heavily dependent on Renfe, the train system operated by the Spanish government. He led them to become more international where they had 90 projects in 35 different countries. This growth added several new jobs and a rise in exports for the Basque Country.
The IBEX35 ended last week on an upward trend closing at 8,751.80, a 0.44% increase for the week.

Political:
After the July 2020 elections and a coalition formed between PNV and PSE resulting in a majority, it was believed that legislation would move quickly. However that has not been the case. Thus far they have approved 4 laws and 15 projects. They still have 17 projects initially identified and several laws under consideration. They are hoping that during the next session they will be able to address more given the majority that is in place.

This past Saturday a protest in Donostia and Bilbao called for the return of all the ETA prisoners to Basque Country without exception or delay. Leaders for this movement pointed to the fact that ETA ceased activity 10 years ago and how Spain has not taken a closer look at what happened under Franco. After the protest one of the political parties, PNV, announced that it would no longer be supporting this movement going forward. Before this protest, the leader of the Association of Terrorist Victims made a request to the Basque Government to prohibit such activity or the celebration when ETA prisoners are released. In the request they pointed to existing laws that would support the request. Later this month, they are also planning a meeting to discuss what else should be done to help those who are victims of terrorism. An article also shared how victims of ETA are asking that the violence that happened be condemned so that a path can be made to move forward.

International:
Here are a few of the headlines/themes for news outside of Spain: Russia/Ukraine border concerns, US Capitol incident 1 year later and the upcoming presidential election in France.

Sports:
Real Sociedad played against Celta Vago this past Saturday. The result was a 1-0 victory. The next game is against Atletico Madrid on January 19 and is part of the King’s Cup. In La Liga the team is currently in 5th place. Currently they are 1 point away from being in the top 4 which would qualify them for the Champions Cup.

GBC was scheduled to play Iraurgi S this past Sunday, however due to COVID cases the game was postponed. The next game is scheduled for January 15 against Prat Joventut. The team is currently in 7th place overall, which would qualify them for the end of the season tournament.
Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • COVID-19 (omicron) and it’s impact
  • ETA victims & prisoners
  • Catholic church as it proceeds through the investigations

The verse for this week centered on light. The following verse carried the message well:When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12