COMECE Bishops present initiatives to promote intercultural dialogue to the Austrian EU Presidency
During their spring plenary the COMECE Bishops adopted initiatives designed to promote intercultural dialogue including its inter-religious dimension. These initiatives were presented to the Austrian EU Presidency during the COMECE plenary, which was held from 22-24 March 2006 in Brussels.
Mr Hans WINKLER, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the Austrian Government, was presented with COMECE’s initiatives to promote intercultural dialogue by the then COMECE President, Bishop Josef HOMEYER. Mr Winkler welcomed these constructive proposals. He promised to make them known in the EU Council. These initiatives for the promotion of intercultural dialogue will explore the possibility of drawing up a common declaration on the freedom of expression and respect for religious convictions with other Christian confessions, Jews and Muslims. Furthermore they foresee the creation of an ad hoc group to focus on the EU’s relations with predominantly Muslim states. This ad hoc group will also elaborate a report for the COMECE spring plenary in 2007. These initiatives will be enacted with a view to the EU´s forthcoming year of intercultural dialogue in 2008.
Mr Julian VASSALLO, a member of High Representative Javier Solana’s unit for Common Foreign and Security Policy, commented on the divisive, emotive and conflictual effect that the publication of the Mohammed cartoons had had on the EU Council. Mr Richard KUEHNEL, a cabinet member of Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Commissioner responsible for External Relations and the European Neighbourhood Policy, presented the Bishops with his analysis of the situation. He asserted that the cartoon furore was a symptom of a lack of understanding between the EU and the Muslim world, and that in such instances dialogue alone is insufficient. He opined that perhaps this is symptomatic of a clash of ignorance on both sides. This position was re-affirmed during an intervention by Mr Joachim FRITZ-VANNAHME, a journalist from “Die Zeit”. He added that there is no clash of cultures, especially given that there was no uniform response to the cartoons from the press in the EU.
The Bishops decided to hold a congress in Rome from 23-24 March 2007. This congress will mark and reflect upon the European Union and its values fifty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957. A preparatory conference will take place in Clermont-Ferrand, France from 9-11 October 2006.
After thirteen years as COMECE President, Bishop Josef HOMEYER was honoured during an evening reception on 22 March. Mr Tadeusz MAZOWIECKI, former Polish Prime Minister and current President of the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation, and Archbishop Michael FITZGERALD, former President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and current Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt, both presented speeches on Religion and Politics in Europe during this event. The European Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot also expressed his thanks and congratulations to Bishop Homeyer for the sterling work that he has been engaged in to promote the European project.
In view of the forthcoming EU Latin America Summit from 6/7 April 2006 in Vienna, COMECE will facilitate a meeting for a small group of bishop representatives from CELAM, the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America, with the Austrian foreign ministry. On that occasion the CELAM Bishops will have the opportunity to highlight the Church’s concerns regarding issues on the agenda of the Summit.
Following the meeting held in Rome from 24-27 January 2006 as the first stage in the preparations for the Third Ecumenical Encounter to be held in Sibiu, Romania from 4-9 September 2007, Bishop Amédée GRAB President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and Mgr Aldo GIORDANO, CCEE Secretary General, updated the Bishops on the situation thus far. Plans for national/regional encounters during Pentecost 2006 and/or during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were outlined. The next preparatory meeting will take place in Wittenberg, Germany from 15-18 February 2007.
The Bishops were updated on the COMECE Summer University which is being organised in conjunction with the University of Graz, Austria. It will take place from 2-16 September 2006 at Seckau Castle, near Graz.
In a meeting between the presidia of COMECE and CCEE, held prior to the plenary on 22 March, they agreed to explore ways and structures that enhance the co-ordination of the two organisations in their work at the European level.
Bishop Adrianus VAN LUYN (The Netherlands) was elected as the new COMECE President. He is assisted by two new COMECE Vice-Presidents, Archbishop Diarmuid MARTIN (Ireland) and Bishop Piotr JARECKI (Poland). Their mandate runs for three years. For biographies of the new presidium, please see below.
Bishop Adrianus Van Luyn, COMECE President
Bishop Adrainus Van Luyn was born on 10 August 1935 in Groningen, the Netherlands. On 9 February 1964 he was ordained a priest. On 27 November 1993 he was appointed the Bishop of Rotterdam. He is a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture and adviser to the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. Bishop van Luyn has been a member of COMECE since March 1995 and Vice-President of COMECE from March 2000 until March 2006.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, COMECE Vice-President
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was born in Dublin, Ireland on 8th April 1945 and was ordained priest on on 25th May 1969. He entered the service of the Holy See in 1976 in the Pontifical Council for the Family. In 1986 he was appointed Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and in 1994 Secretary of the same Pontifical Council. In March 2001 he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop and undertook responsibilities as Permanent Observer of the Holy See in Geneva, at the United Nations Office and Specialised Agencies and at the World Trade Organisation. He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Dublin on May 3rd 2003. Archbishop Martin has been a member of COMECE since 2004.
Bishop Piotr Jarecki, COMECE Vice-President
Bishop Piotr Jarecki was born on 29 June 1955 in Sierpc, Poland and was ordained priest on 1 June 1980. On 16 April 1994 he was consecrated as bishop and was appointed Titular Bishop of Avissa. Bishop Jarecki served as a National Church Assistant of Catholic Action in Poland from 1996 until 2003. Since December 2004 Bishop Jarecki has served as President of the European Union Unit of the Polish Bishops’ Conference and a member of COMECE.
COMECE is a 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 at the Plenary Meeting on behalf of their Bishops’ Conferences: Bishop Josef Homeyer (Germany); Bishop Adrianus van Luyn (The Netherlands); Archbishop Hippolyte Simon (France); Bishop John Crowley (England and Wales); Bishop Jozef De Kesel (Belgium); Archbishop Nikolaos Foskolos (Greece); Archbishop Fernand Franck (Luxembourg); Bishop Adolfo Gonzalez Montes (Spain); Bishop Piotr Jarecki (Poland); Bishop Anton Justs (Latvia); Bishop Egon Kapellari (Austria); Bishop William Kenny (Scandinavia); Bishop Vaclav Maly (Czech Republic); Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Ireland); Bishop Giuseppe Merisi (Italy); Bishop Peter Moran (Scotland); Bishop Rimantas Norvila (Lithuania); Bishop Frantisek Rábek (Slovakia); Bishop Anton Stres (Slovenia); Bishop Amândio José Tomás (Portugal); and Bishop András Veres (Hungary).
The following bishops have observer status: Bishop Virgil Bercea (Romania); Cardinal Josip Bosanic (Croatia); and Bishop Christo Proykov (Bulgaria).
The Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) was represented by Bishop Amédée Grab (Switzerland) and Mgr. Aldo Giordano (CCEE Secretary General).
The Holy See was represented by the Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, Archbishop André Dupuy.