By its very nature, the Church is based “on relationships.” In her, people meet God and meet one another. This is why she is also “in relationship” with all men and women. Pope Francis makes a constant appeal for the whole Church to commit herself in promoting the culture of the encounter. In Europe, this is an urgency on many levels. But how can we bring the message and the experience of salvation offered by Jesus to Europe today, especially where there are still divisions and conflicts? These and other issues on the role of the Church in living out and promoting the culture of the encounter will be the focus of the 46th Meeting of the General Secretaries of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in Europe.
The meeting will be opened in the afternoon of June 29 by H. Ex. Msgr. Youssef Soueif, Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, who will host the meeting, and by Fr. Jerzy Kraj OFM, Patriarchal Vicar (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) for the Latin Catholics in Cyprus.
Subsequently, Msgr. Duarte da Cunha, Secretary General of CCEE, will share his reflection on “Europe and the Church in Europe today.” On Saturday, June 30, the General Secretaries, with the help of the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, will have an important moment to explore the “spiritual needs of Europe today.” They will share their thoughts and experiences on the common and specific mission of the Church in Europe today in responding to these needs that embrace the person in all its dimensions.
In the afternoon, they will be exploring this theme through a dialogue aimed at analyzing the culture of the encounter in the areas of charity, politics, justice, and peace. The general secretaries of three major European Catholic networks will give their opinion: Fr. Olivier Poquillon OP, Secretary General of COMECE, Jorge Nuño Mayer, Secretary General of Caritas Europe, and Stefan Lunte, Secretary General of Justice and Peace Europe.
According to the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, H. Ex. Msgr. Youssef Soueif, “Jesus, in his life on this earth, met all the people who approached him. Through these encounters, he healed their hearts and their minds. Today the Church has the task of fostering this work of healing and reconciliation among peoples. The culture of the encounter is not an ideal, it is the very essence of the Church. The encounter demolishes historical, mental, and intellectual barriers and opens up the eyes of the human person. For the island of Cyprus, divided since 1974, where the ‘spaces for the encounter’ are very limited, this means giving a real help for the young generations of both parties, who were born and grown apart, without social, cultural, and spiritual interactions. The role of the Church is to ensure spaces for dialogue and create opportunities for encounters that lead to mutual acceptance based on reconciliation and trust, to destroy all kinds of preconceptions and the accumulation of grievances in people’s lives. Our work is healing hearts through the purification of memories. A culture of the encounter that aims to promote peace and reconciliation must be anchored on the values of justice and freedom. Only in this way will it be possible to ensure stability at those encounters that bear fruits both at the level of individuals and communities.”
On Sunday, July 1, after the celebration of the Eucharist in the Maronite Cathedral church in Nicosia, the morning will be dedicated to meet the representatives of Caritas Cyprus-Diakonia and the coordinators of youth ministry and the pastoral care for migrants. In the afternoon, after the presentation of the CCEE Activity Report and the new Commissions, the Secretaries will share their opinions on some issues whose relevance has been emphasised during the year.
The meeting will end on Monday, July 2, with an encounter with His Beatitude Chrysostom, the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, and a visit to the Christian Ecumenical Television Broadcaster SAT7.
The meeting will be marked by various moments of prayer and the daily celebration of the Eucharist with the local community and the consecrated persons who live in the island. On Sunday, July 1, the general secretaries will visit some Maronite villages in the north of the island and will meet the local youth for a moment of prayer and celebration.
The meeting will be held ‘behind closed doors.’ A final press release will be issued at the end of the meeting.
On Monday, July 2, at 12:45 pm a press conference will be held at the Archbishopric of Cyprus (Nicosia) with the contributions of Msgr. Youssef Soueif and Msgr. Duarte da Cunha.