Twenty bishops, representing the continental Bishops’ Conferences of Africa and Europe, met online for the seminar organised by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).
CCEE and SECAM, driven by the desire to promote effective pastoral cooperation between the episcopates of the two continents, have been organising symposia and seminars since 2004 in order to strengthen communion, to deepen their shared responsibility for evangelisation and to reflect on the major challenges facing the Church.
This year’s meeting, entitled: “Solidarity in the promotion of human dignity in the light of Fratelli tutti”, saw the bishops discuss chapters 3 and 8 of Pope Francis’ encyclical on human fraternity and social friendship, whilst aided in their reflections by contributions from H.E. Msgr Sithembele A. SIPUKA, first Vice-President of SECAM, and from H.E. Msgr Benjamin Marc BALTHASON RAMAROSON, Arcivescovo di Antsiranana, Madagascar, for SECAM, and from H.E. Msgr Luigi BRESSAN, Archbishop Emeritus of Trento, Italy, and from H.E. Msgr Virgil BERCEA, Bishop of Oradea Mare, Romania, for CCEE.
The work concluded with the approval of a message addressed to “all our brother bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious and lay faithful of the Church of God throughout Africa and Europe”.
“As bishops and pastors, – write the participants – we reaffirm our communion and collegiality and commit ourselves to work to promote human dignity, fraternity and solidarity, which are at the heart of human life and peaceful coexistence. As children of the one Father, we must be open to one another and work hard to build genuine brotherhood not only among our local communities but also with people of different cultural backgrounds, racial and ethnic identities, religious and political positions, social and economic status”.
And again, “In a world filled with good values, but also full of hatred, hostility, extremism, violence and bloodshed (cfr. FT no. 285), we invite everyone to welcome the Holy Father’s heartfelt appeal for inter-religious dialogue as a way of stimulating “friendship, peace and harmony” and to guarantee religious freedom, which is a fundamental human right for all believers”. And they add: “In promoting cultural, inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue, and aware that the Church is a mother, we ask that each local church be “a house with open doors”, to sustain hope, build bridges, break down walls and sow seeds of reconciliation”.
Finally, they appeal to the “political leaders, state authorities and bodies such as the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations” to commit themselves to “to ensure the practical implementation of laws and protocols that enhance solidarity and promote human dignity. In particular, the promotion of life, family, educational and religious freedom as well as the welcome and integration of migrants. Also, through fair and universal access to Covid-19 vaccines”. And they invoke “peace especially in all countries that are currently experiencing conflict in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and throughout the world”.
Attached is the complete text of the final message and the reports from the speakers.