Church representatives meet the French EU-Presidency
Following a now well-established tradition, representatives of the Churches in Europe (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community – COMECE - and Conference of European Churches – CEC) and in France met the French EU-Presidency today in Paris. The French State Secretary for European Affairs, M. Jean-Pierre Jouyet received the Church representatives in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The discussions focused on institutional issues (the future of the EU and the Lisbon Treaty) and on the financial crisis. The Church representatives, in their exchange of views with the State Secretary for European Affairs, expressed their wish to see the Sunday rest day being better protected in national legislations as well as in the future EU Working Time Directive which is currently being revised. In our societies and in our economies, where efficiency has become the ultimate criterion of valuation, Sunday rest allows the individual to be placed at the centre of society and calls attention to the fact that he is free and not the slave of work.
In view of the meeting of the European Council for Justice and Home Affairs on 27 November, the delegation of Church representatives also raised several issues related to refugee resettlement and to European Union policies regarding the return of refugees. The delegation emphasized the need for a truly common EU policy on migration and asylum, which protects the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, and which regards integration as a two-way process, involving both migrants and host communities.
Then the COMECE and the CEC representatives and the Church representatives in France expressed to the French EU-Presidency their deep concern about the rights of minorities around the world, especially where Christian minorities are subjected to persecution. They called on the EU Member States and the EU Institutions to make respect for religious freedom, which is a fundamental right, a major plank of their Foreign Policy.
The Church representatives also discussed the dramatic situation of Iraqi Christians whose extinction would signify a major injustice. It would mean that the dialogue between cultures is no longer possible and the demands of ethnic and religious communities prevail over the universality of human rights.
Finally the representatives also discussed global issues like climate change and EU-Africa relations. They recalled the specific contribution Churches and Christians could bring in helping to address these challenges, through their reflections, examples and local initiatives.
The Churches were represented at this meeting by:
- Mgr Antoine Hérouard, Secretary General of the French Catholic Bishops Conference
- Fr Arsenius Kardamakis, Ecumenical Patriarchate
- Pastor Yves Parrend, Secretary General of the Protestant Federation of France
- H.E Christian Kratz, Auxiliary Bishop of Strasbourg, delegate to COMECE
- Fr Piotr Mazurkiewicz, Secretary General of COMECE
- Reverend Rüdiger Noll, Director of the Church and Society Commission and Associate General Secretary of CEC