On 20 and 21 February in Paris, the Joint Committee of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) met to reflect on 45 years of ecumenical cooperation between the two organisations and to explore new ways of cooperating.
The current socio-political climate – marked by instability and a lack of hope – informed many of the discussions in Paris. Representatives expressed a diversity of perspectives on our current context, including the future of Europe, social and political challenges, economic uncertainty and the myriad questions associated with widespread migration. The exchange was representative of the variety of perspectives found within European churches and indeed the continent as a whole.
Participants recalled the spate of terrorist attacks in Paris and across France as tragic examples of the difficulties now facing Europe. They expressed their solidarity not only with the victims of these attacks, but also with targets of recent terrorism in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
The Joint Committee also focused on challenges specific to churches, including religious illiteracy and how to bear witness to the Gospel in an increasingly secular and pluralistic Europe. They expressed optimism about churches’ ability to offer hope and offer meaningful contributions to all aspects of life on this continent. In this view, future CCEE-CEC initiatives will be organised with a strong theological foundation, engaged in dialogue, and will also focus on witness to and proclamation of the Gospel.
For the near future, participants decided that CCEE and CEC will begin to address different themes and will prepare proposals for collaborative projects. This includes collecting the work of both bodies in the area of freedom of religion or belief as a positive response to the challenge of religious illiteracy.
The work took place in a spirit of cooperation and was marked by moments of prayer according to the different traditions of the Christian confessions present at the meeting.
Established in 1972, following the birth of CCEE (1971), the Joint Committee meets annually and has the role of defining and supervising the various joint initiatives of CEC and CCEE. Activities undertaken up to now include several ecumenical meetings, the three European ecumenical assemblies (Basle, 1989; Graz, 1997 and Sibiu, 2007) and the Charta Oecumenica (2001). Along with the Presidencies and the General Secretaries of the two bodies, the Committee brings together other experts appointed respectively by CEC and CCEE, for a total of eight members in each delegation. The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) was represented by its general secretary Fr. Olivier Poquillon OP.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, President of CCEE
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Vice-President of CCEE
H.E. Mgr Stanisław Gądecki, Archbishop of Poznań, Vice-President of CCEE
H.E. Mgr Youssef Soueif, Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus
H.E. Mgr Anton Cosa, Bishop of Chişinău
H.E. Mgr Thomas Löhr, Auxiliary Bishop of Limburg
Rev. Fr Olivier Pocquillon OP, Secretary General of Comece
Mgr Duarte da Cunha, Secretary General of CCEE
Rt Rev. Christopher Hill KCVO, DD, Church of England, CEC President
H. E. Metropolitan, Emmanuel of France, Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan of France (Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), CEC Vice-President
Very Rev. Karin Burstrand, Church of Sweden, CEC Vice-President
Rev. Adriana Florea, Evangelical Church A.B. in Romania
Rev. Silke Tosch, Germany
H.E. Metropolitan, Joseph, Metropolitan of Western and Southern Europe, Romanian Orthodox Church
Very Rev. Archimandrite, Ignatios Sotiriadis, Church of Greece
Fr Heikki Hutunen, General Secretary, CEC