EU bishops discuss the Future of Europe process
By Lisa Zengarini
European bishops have expressed disappointment over the limited involvement of Churches in the framework of the “Conference on the Future of Europe”. The Conference is a platform of discussion launched by the European Institutions in March this year where all European citizens can voice their opinions and share ideas on various issues to help shape the future of the Union.
Leaving out the voices of Churches will impoverish Europe
The EU initiative and the role of young people in boosting the European integration process was the focus of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) Autumn Assembly which took place in Brussels on October 27-28. In the two-day meeting, European bishops reiterated their support to the Conference and its aim of allowing citizens to have a say on Europe’s challenges and priorities. At the same time, they highlighted the need to further involve Churches and youth at the local, national and European levels.
“This process is healthy and necessary, but leaving out the voice of Churches would impoverish it,” the President of COMECE, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, said. “A Europe with a soul would allow us to face current challenges such as migration or the rule of law with greater impetus and would show greater respect for freedom of religion,” he pointed out.
Exchanges with young people
During their session, Bishops exchanged their views with a delegation of young Europeans invited by COMECE. The discussion focused on youth and faith-based initiatives carried out by the Commission and by Justice and Peace Europe in the context of the Conference and of the European Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first “climate-neutral” continent by reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net-zero by 2050.
The assembly also engaged in a dialogue with EU representatives on the major challenges facing EU citizens and institutions today, with special regard to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them, Colin Scicluna, Head of Cabinet of the Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography who gave the Bishops insights on the working of the Conference on the Future of Europe, its contents and possible outcomes. Further insights on the current state of play were given by Herman van Rompuy, President emeritus of the Council of the EU and current President of the European Policy Centre.
Another important topic of discussion at the assembly was COP26. Bishops heard from the Coordinator of the European Laudato Si’ Alliance (ELSiA) on its activities. In this context, Cardinal Hollerich addressed a letter to EU leaders urging them to stand for bold action against climate change at the Summit.