There is no technical formula to overcome the financial and economic crisis grip in which Europe has been caught. But Churches have at heart the destiny of European populations: they are familiar with the difficulties experiences by individuals and families and call upon the economic realm to restore to man and to the common good the central role they deserve. These are the highlights of the European Catholic-Orthodox Forum (Lisbon June 5-9). Three days of work and debate on a topical theme: “The economic crisis and poverty. Challenges for today’s Europe”. The meeting was attended by representatives of European Bishops’ Conferences as well as of Orthodox Patriarchates and Churches in Europe.
The voice of the Church. Before the crisis it is not the task of the Church to present dedicated solutions. The Church is called to point out that “if the economic realm is stripped of its ethical and moral values it will become anti-human and destructive to individuals and society alike”. It is the belief of Igumen Filaret Bulekov, vice-president of the Department for Foreign Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, who adds: “Today the Church is once more called to recall that without spiritual goals it’s hard to ensure wellbeing or the development of individuals and human societies”. For Msgr. Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow: “a dilemma lies ahead: either the economy and finance are conceived as realms without God, thus ultimately non-human, or, conversely, as opportunities to live the truth of the Gospel that animates society”. “In those place where the reference to the truth of God that is love is missing, the others – whether individuals or mankind – are reduced to an economic unit, deemed important inasmuch as they respond to utilitarian market demand and offer. He added: “Tragic unemployment rates in European countries, the dire difficulties of the youth abandoned by national policymakers in their attempt to create a family, oppressed by employment dynamics, signal a spiritual, economic and financial crisis. Individuals’ interiority is thus wounded and weakened”.
Giving Europe a soul. According to Archbishop Athenagoras from Sinope (Belgium, Ecumenical Patriarchate), “the heart of man is in danger”. “The crisis we are living today isn’t only economic and financial in nature. It conceals a deeper crisis that involves the spiritual and moral realms. In my country of origin, Belgium, every day an average of 6 people commit suicide. People die of loneliness. More than before, people need to give a meaning to life”. “On the other hand – added the archbishop – the European Union is going through a difficult moment since – we sadly acknowledge – the construction of our united Europe doesn’t repose on solid foundations”. In last analysis, it is a question of “pursuing the European ideal, and if we want to pursue it, we have to give Europe a soul”. Indeed, the archbishop remarked, “if Europe continues remaining an exclusive area of economic interests rather than a place of civilization and meaning, the EU will remain a false economic area, threatened by political and cultural identities”.
An ecumenical prayer. Catholics and Orthodox came together for a common prayer. In the heart of the Forum an ecumenical prayer was celebrated “for all those with political responsibilities so that European governments may be the promoters of peace and justice” and for “those who suffer”, especially “for the poor, the sick, the unemployed: that the Lord may send the Angel of peace to watch over them, give them comfort and defend them from all evils”. “In the world around us – said Cardinal. Péter Erdõ, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences – CCEE) we see many signs of sadness and crisis, distortions that derive from specific cultures and from society” that risk “jeopardizing the future possibilities of the next generations”. He continued: “We have just celebrated Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is here with us. Our meeting is a sign of God’s calling. His presence is the reason for our happiness, it is the strength to overcome our limits, the courage to seek Christian unity and bring hope to the world”.
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A challenge for christian unity - In Lisbon, the third European Catholic-Orthodox Forum