View of different flags of European Union Member States, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France View of different flags of European Union Member States, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France 

The Church a faithful companion on path to European unification

As the continent marks Europe Day, May 9th, the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) says the Catholic Church will continue to be “a faithful and honest companion on this path and in this process” of European unification.

By Christopher Wells

Adapting to changing circumstances “should be embraced with courage and determination,” says Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, in a statement on “Faithfulness to European values” released on the occasion of Europe Day 2022.

Celebrating “peace and unity in Europe,” the Day marks the anniversary of the 1950 Schuman Declaration, which proposed the pooling of the French and West German coal and steel, leading to the first European community, the European Coal and Steel Community.

Envisaging change to preserve inspiration and values

Venerable Robert Schuman, who as French foreign minister authored the declaration, and others like him, Cardinal Hollerich notes, were inspired by the desire to preserve peace and security, and to achieve sustainable growth and stability; and founded on shared values including freedom, respect for human dignity and human rights, democracy and the rule of law, solidarity, and subsidiarity.

“Today,” he adds, we may live in a world where faithfulness to this inspiration and these values again means to envisage change for the European Union.” The Cardinal points especially to two “directions for change,” concerning the Conference for the Future of Europe, which closes on Monday; and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

A positive impact

Cardinal Hollerich highlights the “creativity and freshness” of the proposals set to be presented to European institutions on Monday by the Conference for the Future of Europe. The 49 proposals, with concrete suggestions for their implementation, are the fruit of “an audacious experiment in citizens’ participation,” an experiment that the European bishops hope will continue.

“As Church, we are ready to play an even more active role in it.”

In his statement, Cardinal Hollerich says expectations are high for the institutions of the European Union to act on the proposals, saying “Europeans wish a respectful, responsible, social, and sustainable economy.”

Membership in the European Union

Sadly, the Cardinal notes that the 2022 commemoration of Europe Day is taking place as war once again rages in Europe. “Since the beginning of the aggression of Ukraine by Russian forces,” he says, the bishops “have been praying and hoping for peace.”

He takes note of the humanitarian, financial, and military support that European nations have offered to Ukraine, as well as the desire of many European citizens for “significantly closer cooperation in defence and security matters.

In this context, Cardinal Hollerich takes up Ukraine’s application for EU membership, saying, “This request deserves a positive and realistic response.” Similarly, other European nations, such as Moldova, Georgia, and other European nations that have made similar requests in the past “need a credible accession perspective.”

Wholeheartedly embracing European unification

Cardinal Hollerich concludes his statement with the affirmation that the Catholic Church has never stopped “wholeheartedly” embracing “the process of European unification and its underlying values,” even if it has occasionally expressed reservations on isolated policy issues.”

On this Europe Day, he says, “we wish to encourage the political leadership in the institutions and Member States of the European Union to take up the new challenges and opportunities ahead.”

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09 May 2022, 10:05