Aftermath of a Russian military attack outside of Kyiv Aftermath of a Russian military attack outside of Kyiv 

EU Bishops discuss war in Ukraine, Church in Europe

COMECE members participate in the recent High-Level Meeting of EU and Religious Leaders hosted by the European Commission to address the wide-ranging consequences of the war in Ukraine in the European Union, and the need for EU policies that properly maintain a good balance between Church and State.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov and Linda Bordoni

European Bishops are calling for increased occasions to discuss relations and cooperation between the EU institutions and Churches. The annual High-Level Meeting between EU and Religious Leaders on Friday provided a forum for exchange based on Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the occasion to reflect on how the bloc and faith-based organizations are responding to the crisis in Ukraine.

In interviews with Vatican Radio, the president of the Commission on Social Affairs of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE),  Archbishop Antoine Herouard of Dijon, France, and Archbishop Cyril Vasiľ, S.J., the Greek-Catholic Eparch of Košice, Slovakia, both expressed the desire for more coordination and follow-up between Church and State, and highlighted the Church's role in providing support for those most impacted by the economic crisis triggered by the war.

Economic and social consequences of the war

In his perspective as president of the Social Affairs Commission of COMECE, Archbishop Herouard emphasised the economic and social consequences of the war in Ukraine for the whole population in Europe.

Today, he noted, we have a lot of people who are in difficulty because of the energy prices, the inflation and their far-reaching consequences, with a dire impact even on those who are regularly employed and receive wages, but who are struggling to "lead a normal life."

The Archbishop called for concrete solidarity but also highlighted that the consequences of the war in Ukraine are felt well beyond the borders of Europe, and especially many developing countries find themselves in crisis.

He pointed, for example, to countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh that are severely impacted by the energy crisis, and he mentioned the consequences of the war on food and agriculture that result in many nations not receiving grain or other foods needed to sustain the population.

The High-Level Meeting of EU and Religious Leaders
The High-Level Meeting of EU and Religious Leaders

The need for more dialogue

Regarding Art. 17 of the TFEU, Archbishop Herouard upheld its importance because, he said,  it creates the condition for regular and open dialogue between churches, and between the representatives of the different religions present in Europe.

"We must ensure that this dialogue doesn't remain just a formal exercise," he said, noting that today's meeting "was really interesting because the different religious leaders expressed their points of view and different perspectives."

However, he said, there was little time and the need remains to deepen the topics discussed.

"I think it would be useful for the European Union to have a more regular discussion and contact with the religious leaders," he said, noting that, for example, "we see in this Ukrainian crisis that the religious argument is used by some political leaders, so it's important to understand what this means, and how we can try to have links between the religious status of different countries."

Listen to Archbishop Antoine Herouard

Regarding the discussions on Art. 17 Archbishop Cyril Vasiľ agreed there should be more meetings and regular dialogue between "the lay society, civil structures and Church leaders."

These are important, he added, also when it comes to facing a crisis like the one in Ukraine, to be able to coordinate and optimize the best humanitarian response possible.

Archbishop Vasil' repeated his invitation to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people., whom he said, are bearing the brunt of a "very hard, old-fashioned war" that should be completely alien to the "modern European mentality of  the third millennium."

Listen to Archbishop Cyril Vasil'
The High-Level Meeting of EU and Religious Leaders
The High-Level Meeting of EU and Religious Leaders

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27 January 2023, 16:30