COMECE Spring Plenary Assembly 2008:
The EU of the 21st century should incarnate the Common Good
The Bishops Members of COMECE met from the 5th to the 7th of March 2008 in Brussels, for the Spring Plenary Assembly, the main topic being ‘Respecting human dignity and safeguarding the creation – incarnation of the Common good in the EU policies of the 21st century’. The Bishops were informed about the institutional and political revival of Europe in recent months, with the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon and the implementation of ambitious policies to address the issue of climate change. They now invite the leaders of the EU Institutions to express clearly their understanding of human development envisaged in the European unification process in which the peoples are to be engaged.
Having received a report on the state of play of the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the 27 Member States, the COMECE Bishops examined the direction that could be taken by the European unification process, through the presentation of the mission of the Reflection group “Horizon 2020-2030”, set up by the Heads of State and government to reflect on the long term challenges awaiting the EU.
Although the question of the institutional mechanisms may be solved soon, the crucial question of the aims and meaning of the European project is still open, and the answer remains unclear for many European citizens. As underlined by Mgr Van Luyn, President of COMECE, in his opening speech, ‘we are now all aware that, as a rule, the ‘how questions’ are the easiest. It’s harder to answer questions that start with ‘why’ and ‘wherefore?’ (…) Behind the day-to-day business of politics, the vast majority of people can no longer recognise or fathom why things are going in one direction or another’. He adds that ‘Behind politics resides metapolitics, which forms the values upon which all political action is based, above and beyond party lines’.
The subject of the Plenary Assembly enabled the Bishops to reflect on two fundamental values, which could guide the European unification, remobilize the support of citizens and be translated into concrete EU policies: respect of human dignity and safeguarding the creation.
Human dignity is at heart of the debates on the reform of schools and universities, as well as of the discussions on the European Research Policy. The Bishops also debated with Jérôme Vignon (European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities) the demands of human dignity in the context of changing employment patterns. They underlined the importance of the respect for human dignity especially in the context of the protection of life.
Safeguarding creation is at the crossroads of the concern of both political leaders and Christians in Europe, through the elaboration of measures to combat climate change. In November 2007, the COMECE Bishops set up a reflection group on “Climate change and Christian Lifestyle”. The President of this ad hoc group, former EU-Commissioner and President of the eco-social Forum Europa, Dr. Franz Fischler, presented to the Bishops a mid-term report of the work of the group. The final report is expected by next autumn.
Finally, the COMECE Bishops acknowledged the achievements of Mgr Noël Treanor, Secretary General of COMECE since 1993, and his efforts to assist the Catholic Church as a proactive partner in dialogue with the EU institutions. Mgr Noël Treanor will be ordained Bishop of Down & Connor (Northern Ireland) on 29 June next. The COMECE Bishops will appoint a successor as soon as possible in accordance with the procedure foreseen in the statute.