“Current-day Europe is going through a most serious crisis. Many Europeans feel the direct effects of this situation”, and “they are concerned with regard to the future”. Before this situation “our Churches are open to this suffering and concern, and aware of it”. They wish to “send out a message of trust and hope to their faithful and to all Europeans. We must maintain our trust in Divine Providence and in our ability to correct the mistakes of the past, and we have the responsibility to create the outlines for a future of justice and peace”. The claim is contained in the final message (www.ccee.ch
) of participants in the 3rd Catholic-Orthodox Forum held in Lisbon from June 5 to 9, on the theme “The Economic Crisis and Poverty: Challenges for Today’s Europe”. The works of the 3rd Catholic-Orthodox Forum were co-chaired by Cardinal Péter Erdõ, president of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) and by Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.Anthropological and spiritual crisis.
“Man finds his fullness in God, his Creator and Saviour”. But “as a consequence of the process of secularisation, many Europeans have distanced themselves from this constitutional connection with God and are seeking the meaning of life on a merely earthly horizon”. In fact “some ideologies of materialism and hedonism have propounded their own limited vision aimed at promoting the belief that happiness can be reached through the accumulation of wealth, that freedom consists in the satisfaction of all desires, and that societal life can derive from the alignment of all private interests”. For this reason “the Churches observe that the crisis we are in is not only economic in nature. It is rather a crisis involving but not limited to the moral and cultural spheres, and appears as more anthropological and spiritual”. “We have reached this point because finance has become detached from real economics. In turn, the economy is not governed by a political will, and politics is separated from ethics”. Society “must be organised in a way to always serve man rather than the contrary”.Changing lifestyles.
“If Europeans wish to come out if this crisis”, participants write in the closing statement, “they must understand that a shift in lifestyle is needed. The crisis may become the opportunity for giving rise to a healthy sense of awareness. Europeans need to attribute meaning to economic actions from the perspective of a holistic and not partial vision of the human person and his dignity. By placing the person where he should be, and subordinating the economy to objectives of integral development in solidarity, directing culture towards the search for what is true, giving space to civil society and the ingenuity of citizens operating for the well-being of their contemporaries, they will create the conditions for the rise of a new type of relationship with money, production and consumption”. In this inescapable shift, “priority must be given to employment. It will be appropriate to privilege activities geared at generating jobs. Every person should be able to live in a dignified way and to realise their potential through work in solidarity with others. Any form of corruption or exploitation must be eliminated”. Thus the market, “is not a blind and anonymous force”. Instead, “it must be regulated so as to foster the integral development of the human person”. More soberness and solidarity.
“It is no longer acceptable to waste the resources of creation and to pollute the environment we live in as we are doing now”. The vocation of man “is that of being a steward and not a predator of creation. In our times we need to be aware of what we owe future generations who should not inherit a degraded environment in which one cannot live”. In the globalised world we inhabit, the hand governing the life of peoples should not be the invisible coercion of individual and collective egoism, but the influence of a politics of control and transparency over the choices of the social players representing the various States”. Participants thus addressed “words of encouragement to national governments and to those in charge of the European institutions in their efforts aimed at identifying a more just and fairer path to overcome the economic and financial crisis, with special attention to the Countries who are undergoing the most hardship”. An appeal was launched “to the only agents able to bring about the evolution of our societies towards a new style of life, the citizens of European Countries”. “Where citizens understand the crucial need for a change of consumption patterns, their representatives in the various Parliaments will follow, industry will adapt its choices; and educational establishments will teach a new model of citizenship, displaying more sobriety and greater solidarity with the poor. Finally, European men and women will feel the joy of renewing their Christian roots and fostering the spiritual dimension of their being, which is the only way to fulfill every person's search for happiness and meaning”, concludes the statement.