The crisis is a test for the values of European society
COMECE Autumn Plenary Assembly 2008
The financial crisis has exposed a deeper spiritual crisis and a misguided set of values. The sense and value of human work has been pushed to the background in the general struggle for profit, the COMECE Bishops stated with regret on the occasion of their Autumn Plenary Assembly. This meeting, which took place from 12 to 14 November in the new offices of COMECE in square de Meeûs 19 in Brussels, was also marked by the presence of Fr Piotr Mazurkiewicz as the new Secretary General.
With « The current challenges for the European Union » as its main topic, the Plenary Assembly gave the Bishop Members of COMECE the opportunity to analyse the triple crises confronting the EU during recent months: the result of the Irish Referendum which suspended the Lisbon Treaty and the associated institutional Reform of the EU; the geopolitical crisis resulting from the war between Russia and Georgia; and, finally, the financial and economic crisis.
Bishop Adrianus Van Luyn, President of COMECE, called for the scale of the crisis not to be underestimated: “Whoever considers the cause of the financial crisis to reside solely in a lack of transparency and legal accountability is perhaps overlooking the fact that it is far more our societal model that is being called into question. An economic model that is based on the continued and unlimited consumption of limited resources can only end in tears.” He believes that the deeper cause of the financial crisis lies in “a misguided set of values”.
The financial crisis also offers the opportunity to question more incisively the lifestyle of western society. In this context, the COMECE Bishops received the report “A Christian View on Climate Change” prepared by the Expert Group that they had set up in November 2007. The Bishops took note of the report’s conclusions: Climate change raises the question of survival for a large part of Mankind; strong political leadership and, more profoundly, ethical reflection and debate are needed to win over not only the minds but also the hearts of citizens and convince them to distance themselves from the lifestyle predominant in our countries which is too single-mindedly focused on consumption, particularly on high levels of energy consumption.
‘Moderation’ as a central virtue should constitute the core of this change of lifestyle. It is up to Christians to make their fellow-citizens aware that moderation can be synonymous with quality of life and with happiness, because it helps to distinguish the essential from the superfluous. The difficulty that Christians have in conveying the idea that a change of lifestyle is the key to the secret of a good and ultimately a happy life, represents another challenge for the Church.
In the same spirit, the Bishops called for respect for Sunday rest as one of the foundations of the European social model and as a way of balancing work and family life. In recent years, Sunday as a weekly rest day has been threatened by legislation in many Member States thanks to liberal and consumerist-driven political concepts. In the context of the present economic crisis, the COMECE Bishops call on the Members of the European Parliament to assume their responsibilities and include the protection of Sunday in the Working Time Directive that will be submitted to the European Parliament’s vote by the middle of December.
Concerning the situation of Christian Iraqi refugees, the Bishops call on the EU to recognise the essential role of Christianity in Iraq's tradition and history and to continually raise - in its contacts and discussions with the Government of Iraq - the issue of the protection of the Christian community, today threatened with extinction, and of religious minorities in Iraq. More generally, the Bishops regret that the EU, in its relations with third countries, still puts insufficient efforts into attacking with determination the violation of the religious freedom of minorities in other parts of the world.
For their part, the Bishops tasked the COMECE Secretariat with setting-up an Expert group to consider the principle of reciprocity in relation to religious freedom. The report of this group will be presented to the Bishops during their next Plenary Assembly in March 2009.