Press Release

COMECE bishops in Łomża support EU future enlargements: “A strong message of hope for citizens seeking peace and justice”

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 2004 major enlargement of the European Union, the bishops of COMECE, gathered in Łomża (Poland) for their Spring Assembly from April 17-19, 2024, adopted the statement ‘Let us continue building Europe together’. The bishops support the prospect of future enlargements: “It is not only a geopolitical necessity for stability in our continent, but a strong message of hope for the citizens who desire living in peace and justice”. Read the Statement: EN | IT | ES | FR | SK | PL

2024 Spring Assembly of the EU Bishops, Łomża. (Photo: COMECE)

In their statement, the bishops of the European Union note that the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has generated a new momentum for future accessions to the Union, particularly with regard to countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

“Beyond being a geopolitical necessity for stability on our continent we, above all, regard the prospect of a future EU membership as a strong message of hope for the citizens of the candidate countries and as an answer to their desire for living in peace and justice”, reads the Statement.

The bishops specify, however, that “accession to the EU is a two-way process”. They explain that while “the countries aspiring to a future EU membership must continue pursuing the necessary structural reforms in crucial areas, the credibility of the EU enlargement process also implies concrete steps on the side of the Union to become ready to welcome new members”.

On the side of the Union, the bishops mention the need to “re-think its ways of governance in order to allow its members and institutions to act timely and effectively”, as well as taking in consideration the impact of “adjustments to budgetary frameworks, policies or areas of cooperation […] on the most vulnerable members of the societies of the current and future member states”.

The bishops state that “the future EU enlargement is an opportunity to update the idea of a united Europe rooted in practical solidarity”. Finally, they call on citizens and politicians to engage in a “deep reflection on our common value basis and the special bonds that unite us as a European family”.

This Statement was adopted during the 2024 Spring Assembly of COMECE, which took place from 17-19 April 2024 in Łomża (Poland). The Assembly was presided over by COMECE President H.E. Mgr. Mariano Crociata. The event was hosted by H.E. Mgr. Janusz Stepnowski, Polish delegate to the Assembly of COMECE and bishop of Łomża.

In his opening address, the President of COMECE stated that recognising the importance of the upcoming EU elections is the first way to strengthen the EU. He said: “It’s vital to help our countries, starting with our faithful, to take the elections seriously, valuing participation and responsibility, possibly in line with mature Christian awareness”.

Looking at the role of the EU in the world, Mgr. Crociata affirmed that “in a multipolar world that sees the rise of new leading powers, a European Union divided by internal quarrels, unable to speak with one voice, can only prepare itself to pay the high price of marginalisation”. Read Mgr. Crociata’s full address

Ján Figel’ at the 2024 COMECE Spring Assembly in Łomża, Poland. (Photo: COMECE)

The Assembly also provided a space for reflection on the 20th anniversary of the big EU enlargement in 2004. Over these three days, the bishops engaged with various political and religious figures, assessing the successes and failures of the enlargement process and gathering insights to enrich COMECE’s mission of dialogue with the European Union’s institutions.

On 17th April, the bishops met with Ján Figel’, a member of the Board of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and former Special Envoy for the promotion of Freedom of Religion and Belief outside the EU, as well as Chief Negotiator in Slovakia’s EU accession process. He provided valuable insights, analysis, and reflections on European integration, emphasising the need for a unity of values as a key element for a true union, linking democracy to Christianity.

Former Prime Minister of Slovenia, Alojz Peterle during the 2024 Spring COMECE Assembly. (Photo: COMECE)

On 18th April, the bishops received Alojz Peterle, former Prime Minister of Slovenia and former Member of the European Parliament, who emphasised the need for responsible citizenship and advocated for preserving a strong role for religion in the public square. On the same day, the COMECE Assembly welcomed H.E. Mgr. Stanisław Gądecki, Archbishop of Poznań and former President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. Archbishop Gądecki shared insights on the evolution of the Church’s role in Polish society and reflected on the 20 years since Poland’s accession to the EU.

Prof. Tomáš Halík exchanging with EU Bishops. (Photo: COMECE)

On 19th April, Professor Tomáš Halík of Charles University and President of the Czech Christian Academy engaged in a fruitful dialogue with the EU bishops. He provided profound reflections on the current and future challenges facing the Church in Europe, highlighting that openness is key to a future marked by hope and confidence. Explore his keynote speech for further insights

During the Assembly, the COMECE Youth Net Presidency highlighted youth perspectives on digital challenges facing families in Europe today. They also unveiled a toolkit, developed by the COMECE Youth Platform, to aid in the upcoming 2024 European Parliament elections. This toolkit is available here in multiple languages.

COMECE Youth Net presenting the 2024 EU elections toolkit. (Photo: COMECE)

In Poland, the EU bishops visited Tykocin to deepen their understanding of the history of the country. There, they toured the Church of the Holy Trinity and the former synagogue, which now serves as a museum. This synagogue was once home to a Jewish community of about 2,500 people, tragically annihilated by the Nazis in 1941.

The Assembly included several moments of prayer, such as the Mass for Europe celebrated by H.E. Mgr. Tadeusz Wojda, Archbishop of Gdańsk and new President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. This Mass, concelebrated by the COMECE bishops, was held at the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Łomża.

The next COMECE Assembly is scheduled to take place in Brussels from 27 to 29 November 2024.

Statement on EU enlargement: EN | IT | ES | FR | SK PL
Mgr. Mariano Crociata’s address
Prof. Tomáš Halík’s keynote speech
EU elections toolkit
Photo Gallery: Assembly | Mass for Europe