Because Europe starts in the hearts of people, it must be built on common values
This was reaffirmed by the Bishops of the Commission of the Episcopates of the European Community (COMECE) today in a contribution to the 'Berlin Declaration' on European values and ambitions planned for March 2007. The COMECE bishops adopted the text at their Plenary Assembly, which took place from 22 to 24 November 2006 in Brussels.
In the statement adopted on Friday, the bishops consider that the “Berlin Declaration” will be a unique opportunity for EU-leaders “to set out the values they share and the ambition to make these values real”. In view of the 50th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the bishops reminded that “for all of their founders, the Christian imprint on the European project has been an indisputable fact”. Their ambitions were deeply rooted in a set of common values with the respect for human dignity at its core. In the context of new challenges, these values need to be refined. The bishops underlined that the European Christian and humanistic heritage is the origin and the Christian faith of a majority of EU citizens is the living source for our common values. The Berlin Declaration should therefore reflect the religious and humanistic motivations of EU citizenship. They trust that the Berlin Declaration can lay the foundations for a new political and legal framework of the EU.
This contribution of the Bishops will be sent to the future German EU-Presidency, to the President of the European Commission, Mr J.Barroso as well as to the President of the European Parliament, Mr J.Borrell.
On Thursday November 23 the COMECE Bishops invited Mr. Hans Gert Pöttering, President of the PPE-DE Group in the European Parliament, to present challenges and objectives for the European Union. They strongly welcomed a proposal by Mr Pöttering, that a high-level meeting of representatives of churches and religious communities and the Presidents of the three European institutions be organised on the topic of values and ambitions of the EU. This meeting would take place under the German Presidency in the first half of 2007.
Mr. Philippe de SCHOUTHEETE was invited by the Bishops to present the progress of the work of the Committee of Experts (Comité des Sages) of which he is one of the two secretaries. The Committee of Experts was set up by COMECE in order to present a report in spring 2007 on the ethical foundations of the European Union. It will be a basis for reflection for the participants of a European Congress that COMECE will organise in Rome to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome (on the 23 -25 March 2007).
Among the other policy issues followed by the COMECE Secretariat, the Bishops took note of European research policy and bioethics, migration, fundamental rights, demographic change and family policy, and intercultural dialogue. The Bishops welcomed in particular that the social services offered by Churches and their affiliated organizations have been exempt from the scope of the Services Directive adopted by the European Parliament in November.
The bishops also considered EU energy policy. A discussion paper presented to the Bishops supports the adoption of a common European strategy to secure supplies, and to choose an approach of solidarity with the poorest people, in order to share limited energy resources equitably. It called upon European Christians to undertake a conversion towards a more modest life style to combat climate change.
In his half-yearly report, the President of COMECE, Mgr Adrianus Van LUYN (Bishop of Rotterdam) gave a realistic but optimistic report on the current state of the European Union. The COMECE President also presented his reflections on EU borders: these cannot be given a final definition; however, all Candidate countries have to respect the values of the European Union. Furthermore, borders cannot be closed to those seeking refuge and respect for their human dignity in Europe.
Lastly, Mgr Aldo Giordano, Secretary General of CCEE, presented a report on the activities of the Council of the European Bishops' Conference (CCEE) in particular in view of the preparations for the 3rd European Ecumenical meeting which will be held in Sibiu, Romania in 2007 and in which COMECE will participate.
COMECE is a Commission which gathers the Catholic Episcopal Conferences of the Member States of the European Union.
The Bishops of the Episcopal Bulgarian and Rumanian Conferences have the status of observers. The following bishops took part in the Plenary assembly for their respective episcopal Conferences: The President of COMECE Mgr Adrianus van Luyn (Netherlands); Mgr Diarmuid Martin (Ireland); Mgr Piotr Jarecki (Poland); Mgr Jozef De Kesel (Belgium); Mgr Fernand Franck (Luxemburg);); Mgr Reinhard Marx (Germany); Mgr Giuseppe Merisi (Italy); Mgr Peter A. Moran (Scotland); Mgr Rimantas Norvila (Lithuania); Mgr Frantisek Rábek (Slovakia); Mgr Hippolyte Simon (France); Mgr Anton Stres (Slovenia); Mgr Tamás Szabó (Hungary); Mgr Jose Amândio Tomás (Portugal) The following bishops took part as observers: Cardinal Josip Bosanic (Croatia Vice President of the CCEE); Mgr Virgil Bercea (Romania); Mgr Amédée Grab (Swiss). S.E Mgr Andre Dupuy, Apostolic nuncio attached to the European Institutions and Mgr Aldo Giordano, Secretary general of the CCEE, St Gall (Switzerland) were invited to attend the plenary.