Friday 5. March 2021
Santiago 2004 - a week of events to mark European unification - draws to a close

Santiago 2004 - conclusions

Press Release - 24 April 2004 A week of events to mark the unification of Europe, including a pilgrimage, a congress and the plenary meeting of the Bishops of COMECE, has drawn to a close in Santiago de Compostela, the ?spiritual capital of Europe?.

Pilgrimage: On the Way of Hope (17-21 April) 300 pilgrims from more than 25 European countries, including 40 bishops, as well as priests, religious and laypeople, made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which Pope John Paul has described as ?the spiritual capital of Europe?. Starting in Santo Domingo de Silos, they joined the ancient pilgrims? way at Burgos, passing through León, Astorga, Ponferrada and other places before arriving in Santiago and entering the Cathedral through the Holy Door. Texts from the speakers and photos of the pilgrimage are available on the COMECE website or on request from the COMECE Secretariat. Congress: European Union - Hope and Responsibility (21-23 April) The congress, which brought together over 100 participants from across Europe, discussed ?Open our hearts: The Responsibility of Catholics for European Integration?, a consultation document launched by the Bishops of COMECE in June 2003. The congress concluded that the commitment to solidarity, both within Europe and with other regions of the world, and to ecumenism in the document should be deepened. In the light of the recommendations made in the congress and in the preceding consultation process, the text will be re-worked by the Bishops, aided by a group of lay and religious experts, with a view to adopting it definitively at their next plenary session on 18-19 November 2004. Plenary Meeting (23-24 April 2004) The Bishops of COMECE also met for their regular plenary meeting, in which the Bishops from states that will join the European Union on 1 May 2004 participated as full members for the first time. They sent a letter to Pope John Paul II in order to express gratitude for the pontiff?s commitment to the cause of European unity throughout his pontificate (see below). The Bishops reaffirmed their conviction that a reference to Christianity in the preamble of the future EU Constitution would be an appropriate recognition of Europe?s spiritual and religious heritage. They also discussed a statement in view of the elections for the European Parliament on 10-13 June 2004, which will be published in early May. Statement: ?Solidarity is the Soul of the European Union? On the eve of the accession of the 10 new member states, the COMECE Bishops adopted a statement on the need for greater solidarity between the states and peoples of the EU. The document, entitled ?Solidarity is the Soul of the European Union?, underlines the need for more solidarity in a new EU with greater economic and social disparities. The document argues that the forthcoming negotiations on the EU budget, which will come into force in 2007, should be conducted in this spirit. Establishing a ?core Europe? or ?pioneer group? that ignores the existing community institutions would be against the principle of solidarity, say the Bishops, but this should not exclude the possible advancement of some members within the provisions of the founding treaties in order to facilitate the advancement of all. The Bishops also state that solidarity within the EU should not be used to undermine the EU?s obligation to assist the world?s poorest. ENDS Letter to Pope John Paul II Santiago de Compostela, 24 April 2004 Most Holy Father, The Bishops of the Commission of the Bishops? Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), meeting in plenary assembly in Santiago de Compostela at the end of a pilgrimage of approximately three hundred faithful from across Europe, wish to send Your Holiness their most devoted and filial greetings. We came together on the Way to Santiago to celebrate, in this Holy Year, the important occasion of the accession of ten new Member States to the European Union. From each country there participated a delegation composed of Bishops, priests, religious and lay people. We walked together a path that has been trodden for centuries by so many pilgrims from all over Europe to the tomb of the Apostle in order to confirm their own faith. This place is highly symbolic of the cultural and spiritual unity of our continent, faithful to its Christian roots from the first apostolic teaching. We concluded our pilgrimage with the congress "European Union: Hope and Responsibility - - Theological readings of the evolution of a united Europe" in order to deepen our sense of the duty of Christians at the service of the new Europe that is emerging. We wish to express particular gratitude to Your Holiness for the great commitment demonstrated during Your Pontificate to the unity of our continent in reconciliation and solidarity. If today we can rejoice in this moment when the borders of the European Union are to be enlarged, then we also feel deeply that this is also due to the force with which Your Holiness has declared the need for Europe to breathe with both its lungs of East and West. We are also deeply grateful for the doctrinal and pastoral indications that you have given us with the Apostolic Exhortation ?Ecclesia in Europa?, which inspire our ministry. In the paschal joy of the Risen Lord, we renew our expression of filial devotion to Your Holiness. + Josef Homeyer President and the Bishops of COMECE

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