COMECE outlines its willingness to engage in Plan D
In order for the EU to seriously communicate locally with European citizens, then it should not overlook the Churches’ capacity to act as an interlocutor. This was the principle message from the Bishops of COMECE at their Autumn Plenary Meeting held from 16-18 November 2005 in Brussels.
Mindful that this plenary takes place at a time when the European Union is experiencing profound uncertainties as it attempts to re-orientate itself, Bishop Josef HOMEYER, COMECE President, in his opening address highlighted citzens’ increasing concerns about the EU and its institutions. Reflecting on the hiatus in the ratification process of the constitutional treaty, the inability thus far to agree on the 2007-13 financial perspectives, and the decision to open accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey, Bishop Homeyer called upon the Church to actively engage itself in the EU’s reflection period in order to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the European project.
Mr Rolf ANNERBERG, head of Commissioner Wallström’s cabinet, presented the Commission’s new communication strategy “Plan D – for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate” after which the Bishops discussed ways in which COMECE and their respective Bishops’ Conferences might further engender this process. Given the Churches’ large grassroots constituency, Mr Annerberg welcomed COMECE’s invitation to explore together ways in which Plan D might be implemented. This debate was further enhanced by an intervention by Mr Philippe HERZOG, president of Confrontations Europe, on the promotion of an active citizenship in Europe.
During the plenary the Bishops adopted two statements. The first, entitled “A plea for a European strategy in favour of families” is made in the light of the European Commission’s recent consultation on demographic change. In order to tackle the Union’s demographic problems at source, the Bishops advocate that, in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, each political level should strive to reverse the structural marginalisation of the family. They call upon the EU to develop a family strategy that would include measures designed to better reconcile employment and family life. They re-affirm that sacramental marriage is the foundation on which society is built.
The second statement, entitled “EU-Research Funding and Ethics”, welcomes the efforts of the European Union to promote an efficient and competitive framework for research, and acknowledges the existential significance of research for society. At the same time, it highlights the ethical implications of EU funding for research. The Bishops are particularly concerned about the funding of research that uses and destroys human embryos and embryonic stem cells. The COMECE Bishops insist that research should at all times protect human life and human dignity. They call upon the EU to refrain from funding joint research projects with human embryos and human embryonic stem cells.
In marking the fortieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Fr. Henri MADELIN SJ from OCIPE led the Bishops in a reflection on the continued pertinence of Vatican II’s message for the Church and the world today, specifically Europe. The COMECE Bishops concluded that more than ever the Church needs to be able to read and interpret the signs of the times particularly in responding to the threat of terror.
Mgr. Aldo GIORDANO, General Secretary of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), briefed the COMECE Bishops on the current status of the preparations for the Third Ecumenical Encounter (4-8 September 2007 in Sibiu, Romania). The first preparatory meeting will take place between delegates from European Churches, Bishops’ Conferences, ecumenical bodies and movements in Rome from 24-26 January 2006.
On Thursday evening at the church of Saint Catherine at Malines, evening prayer was celebrated and accompanied by a choir under the direction of Fr. André GOUZES OP from Sylvanes Abbey (France). The Vespers were those composed by Fr. Gouzes for the arrival of the European pilgrimage at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela on 20 April 2004. This pilgrimage was organised by COMECE from 17-21 April 2004 to commemorate the accession of the ten new member states in May 2004. Throughout the week, Fr. Gouzes and the choir recorded a CD of the specially composed hymns and music from the liturgy of the 2004 Santiago pilgrimage. The CD will be available in 2006.
COMECE is the Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the member states of the European Union. The Bishops’ Conferences from Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania have observer status.
The following bishops participated in the Plenary Meeting on behalf of their Bishops’ Conferences:
Bishop Josef Homeyer (Germany); Bishop Adrianus van Luyn (The Netherlands); Archbishop Hippolyte Simon (France); Bishop Jozef De Kesel (Belgium); Archbishop Fernand Franck (Luxembourg); Bishop Piotr Jarecki (Poland); Bishop Anton Justs (Latvia); Bishop Egon Kapellari (Austria); Bishop William Kenny (Scandinavia); Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Ireland); Archbishop Joseph Mercieca (Malta); Bishop Peter Moran (Scotland); Bishop Rimantas Norvila (Lithuania); Bishop Frantisek Rábek (Slovakia); Bishop Anton Stres (Slovenia); Bishop Amândio José Tomás (Portugal); Bishop András Veres (Hungary); and Archbishop Elias Yanes Alvarez (Spain).
Cardinal Josip Bosanic (Croatia) participated with observer status.