Reconciliation, demographic change and famine in Africa on the agenda of the meeting of Churches with the Polish EU Presidency
As part of the series of regular encounters between Churches and an incoming EU Presidency, a delegation of Polish and European Church representatives was received by the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski on 28 July 2011 in Warsaw. They had an exchange of views concerning a series of topics related to the political agenda of the Polish Presidency.
The Eastern Partnership is one of the major priorities of the Polish Presidency, which is committed to the deepening of EU cooperation with partner countries on its Eastern borders by intensifying political association and economic integration. In this perspective, the Churches’ representatives emphasised that reconciliation among people in this region should be an integral part of this Partnership. The Polish Catholic Bishops’ Conference is currently working on a declaration of reconciliation with the Orthodox Church of Russia. On the basis of their experiences and initiatives in this field, the Churches’ representatives therefore offered their help in working together on this reconciliation process. The Polish Presidency consequently suggested that Churches’ representatives could participate as Observers in the forthcoming 2nd Eastern Partnership Summit which is due to take place in September in Warsaw.
The Church representatives voiced their concern about the continuing persecution of religious minorities throughout the world. The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs agreed that respect for religious freedom should be a priority of the European External Action Service and that this priority should not only be reflected in a structural way but also in a mindset change within the EU diplomatic services.
Concerning the challenge of demographic change and aging Europe, the Polish Presidency is committed to pursuing the efforts of the Hungarian Presidency in better coordinating Family Policies in Europe and exchanging good practice.
In the context of social rights the issue of work free Sunday was discussed. Churches, Trade Unions and civil society organisations have recently launched a “European Sunday Alliance” which aims at protecting a common rest-day as an essential element of Workers’ Health, Family-Work balance and Social Cohesion in Europe. In the context of the European Year for Volunteering, the Presidency expressed its interest and support for this initiative.
Finally, in order to help the victims of famine in the Horn of Africa, the Polish Churches’ representatives presented their project for a day of Solidarity in Poland, which will be organised together with Caritas. They suggested that this day of Solidarity could be organised Europe-wide. The Polish Presidency declared itself ready to support such an initiative.
The Churches´ delegation for the meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs:
- Bishop Wiktor Skworc, Catholic Bishop of Tarnow,
- Bishop Stanislaw Budzik, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Poland-KEP
- Bishop Wojciech Polak, KEP delegate for the pastoral care of migrants
Ecumenical Council of Churches in Poland:
-Archbishop Abel, Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church
-Bishop Wiktor Wysoczanski, Old-catholic Church
-Superintendent Edward Puslecki (Polish Methodist Church)
The European Church bodies were represented by:
-Rev Rüdiger Noll, Director of the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC)
- Mgr Piotr Mazurkiewicz, General Secretary of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE)