By Lisa Zengarini
Young European Catholics aspire to a more united Europe based on its founding values of solidarity, fraternity, and respect, a recent report issued by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) says. The document contains concrete policy proposals and suggestions that emerged during the Catholic Youth Convention on the Future of Europe, which was organized by COMECE in June this year. The Convention brought together over 100 young Catholics delegated mostly from the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU and from the members of the COMECE Youth Platform, a network of over 10 Catholic Youth organisations.
3 webinars on the Future of Europe
They met online on 3, 10, and 17 June in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the wide public debate process involving European citizens, institutions, and organizations to bring about change in the Union so it can meet today's challenges in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. The process kicked off on 9 May 2021 (Europe Day). On the path drawn by Pope Francis’ Message on Europe, the Catholic Youth Convention focused on three thematic areas: the Just social recovery, the Ecological and Digital transitions, and Democracy & European values. Participants were supported and stimulated in their discussions by several inputs from guest speakers and experts in the fields of ecology, digitalisation, and youth participation.
Support for young people from disadvantaged groups
The 13-page Final Report published by COMECE on 9 September, provides the main outcomes of the Convention and brings to light the wishes and concerns of young Catholics across Europe regarding the Future of the Union, their future. Regarding Just social recovery, participants emphasized the need for “more inter-generational and inter-regional” solidarity and fraternity so that “no one is left behind”, calling attention to the issues of youth employment, education, upskilling, and life-long learning. Amongst other things, they proposed to better support young people from disadvantaged groups to participate in exchange programmes and upskilling courses and contribute to the development of inclusive and sustainable digital technologies and infrastructures. Participants also called for family-oriented policies to allow people to share time with their family and for the development of “a culture of gratuity and support” to better welcome and integrate people like migrants.
Sustainability & Caring for our Common Home
With regard to the Ecological and digital transitions, the Convention report points to the urgent need to promote an integral ecology in daily life, a sustainable digital society and to protect consumers and people’s digital rights, calling on the EU to play its role as a “global actor to build a more sustainable society” at the upcoming UN Conference on climate change (COP-26) in Glasgow.
Promoting Christian values
Referring to the theme of Democracy and European values, participants reiterated the need to involve more young people in the democratic processes, especially in decision-making that directly impacts the youth. They emphasized the importance of informing the public on the EU and its work and preventing disinformation. They also insisted on the need to educate the new European generations on the Christian and democratic values of solidarity, fraternity and respect, calling for a closer cooperation between European institutions and faith communities.
Cardinal Hollerich: "You are Europe now"
Commenting on the Convention, Cardinal Jean Claude Hollerich SJ, President of COMECE, expressed deep trust in the participants and confidence that young people’s will be able to tackle and solve the most important issues of our time: “You are not only the future of Europe, but you are Europe now”, he said. “From your experiences, knowledge and hopes, you can build a better future, not only for Europe and Europeans, but for all brothers and sisters in this world.”