By Vatican News staff writer
Sunday, 9 May, marks Europe Day, which this year will feature the launch of a Conference on the Future of Europe. The meeting will involve all European citizens, civil society, as well as Churches and religious communities, to discuss what kind of European Union is desired.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), and Rev. Christian Krieger, president of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), are applauding the initiative.
In a joint press release, both leaders said this is good news since the Conference will offer the possibility for a broad, open and inclusive discussion about the future of Europe, a much needed first step to renew trust in and reinvigorate commitment to the European Union as a true community of values.
CEC is a fellowship organization bringing together 114 churches from Orthodox, Protestant, and Anglican traditions from all over Europe for dialogue, advocacy, and joint action, and COMECE – the Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union – together represent through their members millions of European citizens in all EU Member States.
COMECE and CEC have both expressed their strong committment to actively contribute to the Conference on the Future of Europe. Both hope to “enthuse, inspire and facilitate involvement of our members at local, regional and national level” the joint statment notes, while involving young people and addressing the key question: “How can young Europeans – the ‘future of Europe’ – regain high hopes, trust and confidence in the European project?”
Looking to the future
In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Devin Watkins, Cardinal Hollerich looked at the challenges facing Europe today and his hopes for a brighter future for all.
Q: How can COMECE and the CEC contribute to the conference on the Future of Europe?
I’m very happy about this question, first that you speak about COMECE and CEC because we closely work together.
We want to be present as Christians in Europe and we shall have next week a meeting with the foreign minister of Portugal, as Portugal has the presidency in the European Union, and my colleague Pastor Krieger and myself will go to Lisbon to meet the minister of foreign affairs and we will present our opinion also about the conference on the future of Europe.
I think it’s a great chance for the Christians in Europe to get ready about what they want from the Union, what are the desires of the Christian population, of the Christian citizens in Europe. It’s also very clear that you cannot just speak about Europe without thinking of the rest of the world.
Q: As we celebrate Europe Day, what are the common European values you hope to strengthen at the conference?
I really hope for more solidarity among the countries, but also solidarity inside the countries.
Solidarity with the poor because we have a new poor in Europe because of the pandemic. We have to get to the core of the social problem. We have to tackle climate change. The green deal of Europe I think is very important.
We have to see how we can strengthen democracy in Europe. I think we need some European media in order to have also media control of European politics and a common conscience among the citizens of Europe.
And I would like to speak in favor of the migrants and refugees. I think Europe is doing very badly at the moment. It is a shame. So we have to face the situation that people die now very often on the Mediterranean, they die in the Atlantic Ocean, they die in front of Europe. Europe is saying that it does not act. The European Union lets people die. I mean, that is surely not compatible with the values of the European Union. So when we speak about these values, we should be honest.
Q: What are some of the main priorities, and make the main challenges, for Europe going into the future?
I think we have to look about the concept of European integration. Up to now some people want a federal state, others want other structures, but it could look like a superstructure we have defending its own interests in a world more and more globalized.
I would like that we live more the teaching of the Pope in Fratelli tutti so that the European Union could show how the rich countries could contribute to more fraternity in the world.
I mean, of course, migrants and refugees, but also justice in economic dealings, justice in commerce, fair trade. There are so many things which still could be done.
So, Europe should not be concentrated on itself, but Europe should be open to the world and see that in other states and other parts of the world we have sisters and brothers. We are co-responsible for their well-being and their happiness.