« Poverty is a challenge that the EU and the Churches must face together »
This was the appeal of Bishop Adrianus van Luyn, President of COMECE, to the EU leaders on the occasion of the 6th annual meeting of the EU Presidents with the Religious leaders in Europe, which was held on July 19 at the European Commission.
The meeting was hosted by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission and co-chaired by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament. It was dedicated to the fight against poverty and social exclusion. Around twenty senior figures from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions as well as from the Sikh and Hindu communities - coming from fourteen Members States - met to discuss the importance of combating poverty and social exclusion from the perspective of European governance.
Bishop van Luyn warned against adopting a way of fighting poverty that relies only on technical or administrative measures: "It will most probably fail to reach its goals: it confers on the poor the role of ‘objects of welfare'" he said. "On the contrary, what is needed is a way of helping poor people that will allow them to be ‘players' in the joint struggle with society against poverty and exclusion."
Appraising the efforts of the EU to overcome the economic crisis, he added "we can neither allow the poorest and the weakest in our society to become the victims of this crisis yet again, nor can we burden future generations with the task of cleaning up after our mistakes while failing to do anything ourselves."
This responsibility of the EU should also apply towards the poorest in the developing countries, especially in Africa, as well as to migrants: "We must not shirk the responsibility of joining forces to achieve the objectives concerning Poverty in the Millennium Development Goals" he concluded.
Cardinal Erdö, President of CCEE underlined that Poverty cannot be restricted to its material understanding but must be addressed in all its dimensions and this therefore raises an anthropological question for political and Church leaders on what exactly are the needs of a human being.
To overcome spreading individualism, Archbishop Zvolensky from Bratislava, called for "a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity, beginning in the family ". Quoting Pope John Paul II, he said "It is urgent therefore to promote not only family policies, but also those social policies which have the family as their principal object" (Centesimus Annus, 49).
Dr Flaminia Giovanelli, from Justice & Peace was the fourth representative of the Catholic delegation at this meeting. She mentioned that the Catholic Church supports and sometimes helps to create businesses that are between profit and non-profit companies, "a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends."(Caritas in veritate 46)
President Barroso, Van Rompuy and Buzek all valued the contribution of Churches in the fight against Poverty, as they are important providers of social services in EU Member States. This summit meeting was the first held under the new Lisbon Treaty, which foresees in its Article 17 that the EU maintains "an open, transparent and regular Dialogue" with Churches and conviction communities. All three Presidents announced their intention to enhance the implementation of this Dialogue at a working level in the coming months.
Official pictures available here
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