The future of the Church in Europe, especially in light of the migration crisis, was at the top of the agenda as leaders of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, or CCEE, met with Pope Francis in the Vatican this week. Following that audience, CCEE President, Cardinal Peter Erdo from Hungary, along with the two vice presidents, Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco and Albanian Archbishop Angelo Massafra, gave a press conference on Tuesday to share some of the Pope’s concerns.
Cardinal Erdo told journalists the Pope had strong words of encouragement for all members of the CCEE as they seek to rediscover and reinforce the Christian roots at the heart of European society. Cardinal Bagnasco stressed the need to form consciences and build a “culture of relationships”, opposing those “economic forces” that seek to manipulate people and promote instead a culture of consumerism and individualistic identity.
Britain’s referendum reveals ‘unease’
Cardinal Bagnasco also spoke about the upcoming British referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU, saying regardless of the result, the unease which many people feel must make European institutions reflect on how they can better respect and value the cultures of the different member countries.
Welcome and integration for migrants
All the Church leaders spoke at length about the migration crisis, saying it’s vital to distinguish between the different challenges facing countries of origin, of transit and of destination. As well as welcoming those in need, they stressed the importance of European countries supporting one another in the longer term integration process.
Mgr Duarte da Cunha, secretary general of the CCEE, said the first rule is that Churches have to “receive everyone with love and mercy, to help all in need”. At this moment, works are more important than words and the testimony of so many Church organisations are a “witness of what this means concretely”.
Secondly, Mgr Duarte said ‘union’ does not mean everyone should do the same thing but rather understand the different situations of countries and the realities of what the refugees want, or where they want to go. “A common policy doesn’t mean the same policy in each country, but a policy that coordinates the different situations”, he said.
Churches can model dialogue and solidarity
Mgr Duarte says Church leaders have an advantage over politicians since they share the same faith and live their lives by the same principles and values. That enables them to listen, to avoid conflict, to respect differences but also to help and welcome those most in need. It doesn’t mean that bishops in one country should say what bishops in another country should do, he said, adding that Pope Francis had been “very aware of this” during the meeting on Monday. Rather than abstract solutions “in the air”, he said, Europe needs concrete solutions responding to the reality on the ground.
Source: Vatican Radio
Photo: Leadership of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, or CCEE, meets with Pope Francis