The current situation of Europe

Reflection of CCEE Commission Caritas in Veritate

St. Gallen, Switzerland, 11 November 2015

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We publish a reflection of the CCEE Commission Caritas in Veritate in St. Martin's Day, November 11 2015, at the beginning of the celebrations of the 1,700th anniversary of his birth. A project of this reflection was presented to the CCEE Plenary Assembly, in the Holy Land, September 13, 2015.

1. At this historical moment Europe is struggling with itself and with its own future in a particularly pointed manner. Nevertheless, the serious pressure of external phenomena must not be allowed to let us forget the greatness of the internal resources, the difficulties of the path ahead must lead us to draw more deeply on its own material and spiritual resources.

2. Ideologies today are trying to remove from Europe its values and divide it into supporters and opponents of models built not on the common history of Europe, but on theory. Economic and cultural pressure groups have been actively mobilised in Europe against Europe. The continental institutions are suffering from the tension between the identities of peoples and the dimension of bureacracy, which usually responds to abstract parameters and is led by officials often distant from the real life of Europeans. The co-existence of religions has been put at risk by a policy of religious indifference and by the attempt to relocate religions from the public to the private sphere. Just as at other historical moments of Europe’s past, the religious phenomenon is presented as dangerous, but to make it such is in fact the politics which rejects using a public rationale capable of discernment of religions on the basis of universal human values. Economic concerns are often victim of political and financial concerns. On the concreteness of the real economy and work is being fought the clash between two abstracts, that of politics, conditioned by ideology, and that of finance, conditioned by speculation. The States are suffering and struggling to mediate in a significant manner between the peoples and the transnational European institutions.

3. In this picture of difficulties, Europe is conscious of new problems or new aspects of old problems. It can react with a proof of wise realism, faithful to its own history, the recovery of moral and spiritual resources which represent its vocation. There is an on-going weakening of European cohesion, both at the level of encounter between peoples and between nations. Forms of particularistic reaction are arising, which it is too easy to liberate oneself from by calling them “populist” but which, even if manifested in inappropriate forms, denounce a widespread incomprehension. New divisions between States are arising: between strong and weak States, between States aligned along a dominant culture and non-aligned States, which not for this can be considered second class. The search for common values does not mean imposing on everyone the values of some, it means sharing true and valid values for everyone. Alliances are being re-opened which it was thought had been defintively overcome, fears and tensions which had characterised other eras are re-emerging. The arduous situation in Greece has posed problems much wider than the small country and even the Union itself. There is serious concern about the situation of open conflict in Ukraine, a land historically very significant for the European continent and its civilisation between East and West.

4. Europe must ask itself profound, searching questions on all these issues. Sometimes the practice of the European institutions is seen by the peoples as arrogant. Therefore the processes of questioning seems to have taken a step backwards. The peoples fear being trapped in a context which distorts their historical and cultural characteristics. They must be reassured with real guarantees.

5. Peace must be a primary objective for Europe, but our continent must be more than realistic about this. Peace is the tranquillity of order, it is therefore a global and not just a military need. A secure Europe which in turn is a source of security is an ordered Europe, where the various social institutions are justly given first place. Not to respect life and the family also means creating conflict and weakening peace. The same is true for the contempt or even persecution of religion, above all the Christian religion, or an education of young people in moral anarchy. If justice is not guaranteed and if judicial power tends to replace not only the other two powers but also the ethos of the peoples, pretending to restructure it, conflict becomes a path with no way out.

6. In tackling new problems and new aspects of old problems, the European continent must be an active and not passive subject in all these areas. Migration must be prudently and responsibly governed and not suffered. “The complexity of this phenomena, with its inevitable differentiations, demands great attention from the individual States, whose situations are radically different, with the aim of responding promptly to the needs of immediate assistance and welcome of people desperate due to war, persecution, and misery. Through the necessary institutions, the States must maintain public order, guarantee justice for all and offer generous willingness to those truly in need, with a view to respectful and collaborative integration. The commitment of the Churches of Europe is great, and, following the indications of the Holy Father Pope Francis, they are collaborating with the States, who are primarily responsible for the social and economic life of their peoples. The many experiences already underway encourage the pursuit and intensification of every effort.” (Message of CCEE Plenary Assembly, 16 September 2015)

In the management of migration, which today assumes the aspect of humanitarian emergencies, Europe must not renounce its own legal civilisation and the fundamental values of its own culture which it has assimilated from the tradition of natural moral law which here by us has been enriched and transmitted by the Christian tradition and which is also present in other cultures and religions. Nor can it exempt itself from a common commitment to tackle this emergency not just in the so-called welcome of refugees but also and above all by a foreign policy of effective contrast to the depraved interests of those behind this phenomenon. But Europe cannot do everything alone! “Given the complexity of the situations and the breadth of the humanitarian tragedies, we hope that the UN will take the situation into decisive consideration and reach effective solutions not just with respect to the first welcome but also to the migrants’ countries of origin, taking appropriate measures to stop the violence and build the peace and development of all peoples. Furthermore, peace in the Middle East and in North Africa is vital for Europe, just as it is crucial that a true peace throughout the continent itself be reached as soon as possible, starting from Ukraine” (Ibidem).

7. Europe cannot adequately tackle such important processes from a solitary position of self-rejection. On the contrary, it must show its own face, the face of a continent which has known in its history truths about men and women and their co-existence and is ready to expend this richness with responsibility. The concrete ecological problem must be tackled without reductive deviations, in the spirit of an “integral ecology” which includes within itself both the environmental and the human. The live problem of employment must also be tackled, in a true European space, re-vitalising with a spirit of pragmatism old and new professionalisms, liberating energies from the institutionalisation of wastefulness, from the revenues of a position and from an excessive fiscal pressure in the face of generalist welfare systems and not always adequate benefits.

8. A similar spirit of wise pragmatism, unafraid of showing its own typically European face, is also true for dialogue between religions and, in particular, with Islam. Human rights, peace, a concrete common good which is not just material but also spiritual, the family, the equal dignity of human beings, the correct distinction between politics and religion, are European values and human values at the same time. Europe must defend them while promoting a true meeting between the religions about them .

9. The Catholic Church which is present in the different European nations knows well that its first duty is the proclamation of Christ to the Europeans, because the first factor of development is the Gospel. It knows how to do it in friendship with everyone, but with its own unique appearance, founded on the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the welcoming of the proclamation of Christ arise new relationships, new ways of seeing things, new incentives of solidarity and civic friendship, a new conviction to fight for people’s human and transcendent good.

The CCEE Commission is chaired by His Grace Mgr Giampaolo Crepaldi, Archbishop of Trieste (Italy) and is divided into three sections: Migration, chaired by His Eminence Cardinal Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb (Croatia); Safeguarding Creation, chaired by His Grace Mgr André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop Emeritus of Malines-Bruxelles (Belgium); Social issues, chaired by His Grace Mgr Giampaolo Crepaldi, Archbishop of Trieste (Italy).

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