Bishops’ message and statement at the end of the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences
St. Gallen, Switzerland
27-30 September 2012
The Mass of Nations, broadcast live by Swiss television from St. Gallen Cathedral, marked the end of the Assembly of Presidents of Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences convened by the CCEE.
At the end of their meeting, participants agreed on a message concerning the challenges of evangelization in Europe.
On the eve of the Year of Faith, proclaimed by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, and the world Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, the CCEE gathered for its annual Assembly in St Gallen, Switzerland – in the organisation’s offices – on the occasion of the 1,400th anniversary of Saint Gall’s arrival in the city and following an invitation from the local bishop, Mons. Markus Büchel.
Intense and fruitful work took place in the light of faith, in the usual and well-established climate of fraternity and with everybody’s passionate participation, as Christian Community Pastors as well as European citizens.
At the end of their work, the participants of the CCEE Plenary Assembly agreed on the following final message.
The President’s keynote speech, by Cardinal Péter Erdő, opened the Assembly’s proceedings by providing a summary of progress made during the past year and focusing on the main themes to be addressed. The situations that give greater cause for concern are the European Union’s difficult progress with respect to ideal values – amongst which freedom of religion and respect for life and family stand out – the economy, which is the reason for widespread poverty, and the relationship with African peoples.
In his message to Cardinal Péter Erdő, President of the CCEE, through the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy Father urged the Church in Europe “to reflect on the unending task of evangelization and its current renewed urgency” and to follow the example of Saint Gall, who taught us that “the seeds of the Christian Message are sown and effectively take root wherever this Message is genuinely and eloquently lived out by a community”. During the proceedings, the Presidents thanked the Holy Father for his words and teachings with a letter.
During the proceedings, CCEE commissions reported on their work and future prospects. The Assembly appreciated their commitment and projects, confirming its gratitude and esteem. At the same time, the Presidents of the following CCEE Commissions were appointed.
Mons. Giampaolo Crepaldi, Bishop of Trieste (Italy), was confirmed as the head of the Commission Caritas in Veritate for one year.
Mons. Marek Jędraszewski, Archbishop of Lódz (Poland) was appointed head of the Catechesis, School and University Commission, and was also confirmed as the head of the University section; for the Catechesis section, Mons. Duro Hranic, Auxiliary Bishop of Đakovo and Osijek (Croatia) was appointed, while for the School Section, it was Mons. Eric Aumonier, Bishop of Versailles (France).
Mons. José Ignacio Munilla Aguirre, Bishop of San Sebastian (Spain) was appointed head of the Commission for Social Communications.
Lastly, Mons. Oscar Cantoni, Bishop of Crema (Italy), was appointed head of the European Vocations Service.
The introduction to this theme was entrusted to the Archbishop of Malines-Bruxelles, Mons. André-Joseph Léonard, President of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference, to Prof. Marta Cartabia, Law Professor and Member of Italy’s Constitutional Court, and Prof. Kuno Schedler, Professor of Business Economics at the University of St. Gallen.
Their reports provided very interesting elements and insights for discussion in the Assembly. There are several conflicting secular visions of law and its foundations nowadays, vying for supremacy. The concept of the human person, which is at the foundation of universal experience and culture, is often considered to be obsolete. A clear division between different anthropological visions is emerging, leading to opposing and serious attitudes, interpretations and choices, for example with respect to bioethical issues – from embryos to abortion,
from fertilization to euthanasia – relations with religions and Churches, non-discrimination, families and children’s rights, as well as the delicate relationship with State sovereignty. Bishops reiterated the freedom to be able to proclaim the Gospel and the Social Doctrine of the Church, knowing that it is the source of that heritage of hope and humanism that is the fundamental fabric of European civilization.
The Assembly gave special and practical attention to persecutions against Christians in the world: closeness with persecuted Churches was renewed, asking the international community to clearly and constantly speak out, so that religious freedom is respected and promoted always and everywhere. The Observatory on Discrimination and Intolerance against Christians in Europe was also discussed, expressing the strongest disapproval concerning a number of grievous events which, wherever they occur, express an involution of culture and society that contradicts their alleged aims and purposes. The will to contribute to a cultural in-depth analysis of the fundamental categories of “freedom” and “discrimination” was also reiterated.
Reports on joint work with COMECE on social issues prompted all participants to encourage additional work to be carried out, in order to better and more effectively serve our community in Europe. The visit to Strasbourg of the Presidents of South-East Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences proved to be particularly interesting and useful, as was the case with the Symposium of European and African Bishop, as well as the meeting of Eastern-rite Bishops in (Romania).
The light and grace of the daily Eucharist guided our proceedings, which ended under the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Holy Mother of the Church, and with a prayer to Saint Gall during the Mass celebrated in a Cathedral packed with people and broadcast live by Swiss television.
The Council of Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) currently includes 33 European Bishops’ Conferences, represented by their Presidents, the Archbishops of Luxemburg and the Principality of Monaco, the Archbishop of Cyprus of the Maronites, the Bishop of Chişinău (Rep. Moldova) and the Eparchial Bishop of Mukachevo. The current President is Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary, the Vicepresidents are Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, and Mons. Józef Michalik, Archbishop of Przemyśl, Poland. The Secretary General of the CCEE is Mons. Duarte da Cunha. The Secretariat is located in Sankt Gallen (Switzerland).