Established on 25 March 1971 with the approval of the norms ‘ad experimentum’ by the Congregation for Bishops, and later signed by St Paul VI, the Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences “was born under the gaze of the Mother of Christ and of the Church, who would subsequently be venerated as Queen of Europe”.
Composed of thirty-nine members, thirty-three of which are national Bishops’ Conferences – plus the Archbishops of Luxembourg, the Principality of Monaco, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus and the Bishops of Chişinău (Moldova), the Eparchy of Mukachevo and the Apostolic Administration of Estonia – the CCEE represents the Catholic Church in forty-five countries throughout the European continent.
In these 50 years, 7 Presidents have succeeded one another as the head of the CCEE. The first was the French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, from 1971 to 1979. Then it was the turn of the English Cardinal Basil Hume, President until 1986. The Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini was President from 1986 to 1993. During the term in office of Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, President from 1993 to 2001, there was a reform of the Statutes, desired by John Paul II in 1995, which established that the members of the CCEE were the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe. Following them came Swiss Bishop Amédée Grab, President from 2001 to 2006, and Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő, President from 2006 to 2016. In 2016, Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, was elected President of the CCEE.
“Promoting the meeting of the Bishops’ Conferences, reciprocal knowledge, the exchange of experiences, a new proclamation of Christ, pastoral care and its future, – write the Presidency in the message addressed to the European bishops for this jubilee – presented themselves as necessary steps in the face of new ways of thinking and acting. From this perspective, the CCEE was a sign of the Church’s attentiveness to the changing world”.
It is not possible to make a full assessment of these fifty years of service to the Church in Europe, the Presidency continues, but we cannot overlook the active participation in the two Synods of European Bishops in 1991 and 1999, “ten symposia, three ecumenical assemblies, five Catholic-Orthodox forums, fifty plenary assemblies (with the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences since 1995), meetings with the general secretaries, press officers and spokespersons, meetings of commissions on emerging issues. Together with timely documents and communiqués, the Church’s cordial and attentive closeness to the beloved European continent was thus expressed”.
One mission, that of the Church in Europe, which looks at the various challenges that await in the near future, starts with a just recovery after the current pandemic. And also, “it is necessary to pay attention to the dialogue between all religions as a basis for building a fraternal world, as well as an urgent commitment to the creation of which we are all custodians. These are challenges to which Pope Francis draws attention and offers operational guidelines”.
Finally, an observation: “We cannot remain silent, to the praise of God and our encouragement, that even the desert flourishes. The “spiritual desert” that seems to define the Continent, deeper down contains budding seeds that move us; they instil confidence and enthusiasm in the integral proclamation of the Gospel. Beneath the surface, in fact, lives a host of people of all ages who seek the meaning of existence and feel a longing for God”. And the wish for all: “it is the hour of an awakening of consciences, an awakening that is perhaps slow but inescapable. It is one of the signs that the Spirit of the Risen Lord is always blowing on the boat of the Church”.
The 50th anniversary of the CCEE will be celebrated in Rome at the September Plenary Assembly in the presence of the Holy Father Francis.
Please find attached the full text of the Presidency’s message.
Description of the new logo designed for this jubilee celebration
The new logo of the CCEE, designed to celebrate its 50th anniversary, is simple and elegant. The colours used are the same as before: burgundy for the name of CCEE and golden yellow for the date and symbol, to highlight the Jubilee event.
In the centre, next to the CCEE symbol, the year of its establishment, 1971, and the current year, 2021, along with the number 50 for the 50th anniversary year have been added.
The full name, written all around the logo, recalls the nature and purpose of the Council: a body of communion between the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, in particular to the exercise of collegiality in hierarchical communion and in the achievement of greater communication and cooperation between the Bishops.