History

Standing Committee, April 1983. From left to right: Fr. Paul Huot-Pleuroux (General Secretary), Mgr. Cahal Brendan Daly (Vice-President), Cardinal Franz Hengsback (President), Mgr. Jean Hengen (Vice-President). Credit: COMECE

Following the European Parliament’s first elections with universal suffrage held in 1979, a college of Bishops, with the approval of the Holy See, established on 3 March 1980 the Commission of the Episcopates of the European Community (COMECE). The first President of COMECE was H. Em. Cardinal Franz Hengsbach, Bishop of Essen.

With the aim of monitoring and providing assistance to the European project, the institution first focused on its information provision mandate by publishing a bulletin called l’Europe au fil des jours, conducting pastoral reflection specifically on European issues. COMECE also established an early form of dialogue with the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, the entry into force of the Single European Act, and the Treaty of Maastricht led the European Community – now European Union – to rethink its identity and the meaning of its construction.

In line with the growing number of policy competences handed over by the Member States to the European institutions and in the context of various EU enlargements, COMECE reorganized itself. Not only by increasing the number of its Member Bishops’ Conferences but also by acquiring new expertise to better accompany the European integration process, providing a better response to the growing number of legal, social, and political issues posed by the European institutions. Drawing inspiration from the Church’s Social Doctrine, COMECE assisted the EU policy-making by providing substantial and relevant contributions and raising awareness of the EU policies among its Member Bishops’ Conferences.

Plenary Assembly 1990, with COMECE President, Mgr. Jean Hengen (Luxembourg). Credit: COMECE

In 1997, COMECE and CEC developed a tradition of meeting every new Presidency of the European Council, offering recommendations for people-centered policies.

With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, the informal dialogue between Churches and the European institutions was institutionalised in Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

After more than 40 years, COMECE – whose name adapted to the European process and today stands for the Commission of the Episcopates of the European Union – keeps monitoring and assisting European policy-making, supporting the European integration process, in communion with the Church, for the promotion of the common good, supporting EU policies that dignify the human person in all its aspects.

COMECE Presidents from 1980 to the present day
Cardinal Franz Hengsbach (Germany) from 1980 to 1983
Archbishop Jean Hengen (Luxembourg) from 1983 to 1990
Bishop Charles-Amarin Brand (France) from 1990 to 1993
Bishop Josef Homeyer (Germany) from 1993 to 2006
Bishop Adrianus van Luyn (Netherlands) from 2006 to 2012
Cardinal Reinhard Marx (Germany) from 2012 to 2018
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich (Luxembourg) from 2018 to the present day

COMECE Vice-Presidents from 1980 to the present day
Bishop Cahal Brendan Daly (Ireland) from 1980 to 1983
Archbishop Jean Hengen (Luxembourg) from 1980 to 1983
Cardinal Franz Hengsbach (Germany) from 1983 to 1986
Bishop Dante Bernini (Italy) from 1983 to 1986
Bishop Charles-Amarin Brand (France) from 1986 to 1990
Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo (Portugal) from 1986 to 1990
Bishop Luk De Hovre (Belgium) from 1990 to 1993
Bishop Joseph Duffy (Ireland) 1990-1993
Bishop Elias Yanes-Alvarez (Spain) from 1993 to 1999
Archbishop Fernand Franck (Luxembourg) from 1993 to 1999
Cardinal Attilio Nicora (Italy) from 1999 to 2003
Bishop Adrianus van Luyn (Netherlands) from 1999 to 2006
Archbishop Hippolyte Simon (France) from 2003 to 2006
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Ireland) from 2006 to 2009
Bishop Piotr Jarecki (Poland) from 2006 to 2012
Cardinal Reinhard Marx (Germany) from 2009 to 2012
Bishop Virgil Bercea (Romania) from 2012 to 2015
Bishop Jean Kockerols (Belgium) from 2012 to 2018
Bishop Gianni Ambrosio (Italy) from 2012 to 2018
Bishop Rimantas Norvila (Lithuania) from 2016 to 2018
Bishop Czeslaw Kozon (Scandinavia) from 2016 to 2018
Bishop Mariano Crociata (Italy) from 2018 to the present day
Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck (Germany) from 2018 to the present day
Bishop Noel Treanor (Ireland) from 2018 to the present day
Bishop Jan Vokal (Czech Republic) from 2018 to the present day

COMECE General Secretaries from 1980 to the present day
Msgr. Paul Huot-Pleuroux (France) from 1980 to 1989
Fr. Paul Schaeffer (France) from 1989 to 1993
Msgr. Noël Treanor (Ireland) from 1993 to 2008
Msgr.Piotr Mazurkiewicz (Poland) from 2008 to 2012
Msgr. Patrick Daly (Ireland) from 2012 to 2016
Fr. Olivier Poquillon o.p. (France) from 2016 to 2019
Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto (Spain) from 2019 to the present day