Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) & United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
Bishops from Europe and the USA meet to foster partnership
At the first meeting of its kind, bishops from the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) came together to reflect upon some of the world’s major problems within the context of the transatlantic relationship. The meeting took place from 21-23 September 2005 in Brussels.
“We are here to foster better understanding between the United States of America and Europe”, said Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington D.C., in relation to the purpose of this unique event. Representatives from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) met to explore a range of issues, including: the cause of peace in the Balkans and the Holy Land; the challenge of global security; the promotion of development in Africa; the need for inter-religious dialogue with Islam; the plight of migrants and refugees; and the role of religion in public life.
The bishops agreed that co-operation between the EU and the USA is essential if peace and justice are to triumph over conflict and despair in the world. To this end they pledged to encourage continuing communication and collaboration between COMECE and the USCCB for the common good of all peoples.
In the ten years since the New Transatlantic Agenda was signed in Madrid in 1995, the world has come to face new and difficult challenges. Responses to these challenges require a strong, productive partnership between the EU and the USA. This fortuitous meeting provided the opportunity for the bishops from both sides of the Atlantic to make a constructive contribution to the transatlantic dialogue from the basis of Church experience in society and Catholic Social Teaching as the EU and the USA enter a new phase in their evolving relationship.
The assembled bishops reasserted their support for the Millennium Development Declaration and renewed their hope that the United Nations undertake the reforms necessary to be able to tackle the problems that beset the world’s poorest and most marginalised people. They called for a new momentum to remedy the ills on the African continent as they pledged to explore the possibility of working together to follow the agenda of the G7/8, focusing particularly on Africa.
Reflection took place upon the situation in the Balkans since the catastrophic wars of the 1990s. In highlighting the persisting ethnic tensions, the unresolved status of Kosovo and the difficult situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the European and American bishops resolved to explore ways together to foster peace and reconciliation in the area, along with continuing to support the Church and Christian communities in the region.
Applauding recent progress in the Middle East Peace Process, the bishops reaffirmed their unwavering solidarity with the Church in the Holy Land. Efforts to secure a lasting and durable peace must be intensified at this critical time, with the support and intervention of the EU and the USA crucial to the final resolution of the situation.
The bishops addressed questions regarding the role of religion in public life, and the relationship between Christianity and Islam. They underlined that religious freedom and inter-religious dialogue are essential to securing peace in the world. Always mindful of the distinction between the temporal and the spiritual, the bishops acknowledged the proper and respective roles of Church and State in society. Religion cannot be confined to the private sphere as it has a public dimension. Religion has an important role to play in assisting lay people to fulfil their vocation of playing a responsible role in the public arena.
As the Gulf of Mexico is hit by another hurricane, the European bishops offered their guests their prayers and support for the American people who have fallen victim to natural disaster.
The following bishops participated in the meeting:
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (Archbishop of Washington), Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio (Bishop of Brooklyn), Bishop William Murphy (Bishop of Rockville Centre, New York), Archbishop John Myers (Archbishop of Newark), and Bishop John Ricard (Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee and Chairman of the International Policy Committee).
Bishop Josef Homeyer (Bishop Em. of Hildesheim and President of COMECE), Archbishop Hippolyte Simon (Archbishop of Clermont and Vice-President of COMECE), Bishop Adrianus van Luyn (Bishop of Rotterdam and Vice-President of COMECE), Archbishop Fernand Franck (Archbishop of Luxembourg), Bishop Piotr Jarecki (Auxiliary Bishop of Warszawa), Bishop William Kenney (Auxiliary Bishop of Stockholm), Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Archbishop of Dublin), Bishop Giuseppe Merisi (Auxiliary Bishop of Milan), Bishop Peter Moran (Bishop of Aberdeen), and Bishop Leo Schwarz (Auxiliary Bishop of Trier and President of the European Justice and Peace Commission).
COMECE is a commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the member states of the European Union.
The USCCB is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is an assembly of the hierarchy of the United States of America and the U.S. Virgin Islands.