In his opening speech to the COMECE Autumn Plenary Assembly, which is taking place in Brussels from 26-28 October, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of COMECE, said that the Church wanted to make a contribution to help the European Union to overcome the multiple crises it faces.
Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, is representing the Irish bishops at the assembly which has chosen the topic ‘The Plight of Europe’s poor & EU Strategies to eliminate poverty’ as the theme for its meeting.
Cardinal Marx said, “In this existential crisis of the EU, COMECE is more important than ever”. Regarding the consequences of the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the EU, the President of COMECE emphasised that it was not only a British problem. Rather, it is the European Union as a whole that has to reaffirm its goals. Beyond the issue of EU membership, the Cardinal encouraged the United Kingdom as well as the EU, to “start moving towards each other again,” From the perspective of the Church, with its universal vocation, one should always consider “what people have in common, beyond borders.”
As the voice of the Catholic Church in the European Union, COMECE has announced that it will organise a Congress in Rome in autumn 2017 on “Rethinking Europe” to which bishops and lay people will be invited to discuss with policy makers the future of the political unification project. Cardinal Marx further explained: “We as members of COMECEhave to embark on this difficult task, not to look for solutions in the past or on the way back, but rather, drawing upon the knowledge of the richness of the past, to find them in the future, looking forward with confidence.”
While attending the plenary assembly, the COMECE bishops will meet local associations in Brussels, which provide help to the poor. As in every plenary assembly, experts and EU officials will be invited to exchange with the bishops on the main topic:
– the secretary general of Caritas Europa, Jorge Nuño Maier, will outline an analysis of poverty within the European Union, between individual action and institutional advocacy;
-Ms Doreen Huddart, Rapporteur for the opinion on Child Poverty(Committee of the Regions) will share her view on structural poverty in Europe;
– Michel Servoz, European Commission, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, will present EU actions to tackle poverty and social inequalities in the EU.
In the light of a re-reading of the joint report on Poverty issued by COMECE, CEC, Eurodiaconia and Caritas Europa, the bishops will consider a statement on poverty and social inequalities in Europe.
COMECE is made up of bishops delegated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the 28 Member States of the European Union. Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, is the COMECE representative from the Irish Bishops’ Conference. For more information on COMECE visit www.comece.eu.