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The word to Christians
Interview with Card. Péter Erdõ, CCEE president
“Words must be marked by dynamism and hope or else people will fall in a state of desperation”. This is the role that Christian Churches in Europe can play at a time of economic crisis in the quest of solutions to overcome recession, unemployment and plummeting stock exchanges”. The emphasis was made by the Metropolitan of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Gennadios of Sassima in the concluding remarks of the Third European Catholic-Orthodox Forum (Lisbon June 5-9). “In Greece – he added –, politicians have lost credibility. Workers are on strike, while others have lost their job. Many are those who have lost all hopes, some of whom have committed suicide. The Church shares the human suffering of her people. She uses all the material tools she has to respond to cries for help to the poor and to help those that have fallen into a state of poverty. But the Church has also other means, namely: faith, hope and recovering the roots of our spiritual life”. The three days Forum on the ongoing economic crisis and poverty, ended with a final statement (www.ccee.ch[>>]). Maria Chiara Biagioni, in Lisbon for SIR Europe, asked cardinal Péter Erdõ, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), to draw a balance of the Forum.
Christians and Orthodox convened in Lisbon to discuss the economic crisis and poverty. What issues were brought up?
“We sought the reasons of the ongoing crisis, we listened to the experiences of other Countries. We’re under the impression that Western countries still tend to contain the problem maybe because the consequences of the crisis – until now - are perceivable by only a part of the population while in other parts of Europe problems caused by the crisis and by poverty are widespread. For instance, in Hungary mean salaries amount to almost 20% of Germany’s, while prices have remained the same”.
Which solutions emerged?
“Experts in economy were among the panel speakers. We didn’t focus on the quest for technical solutions, but on the search of answers in the light of our common faith. Clearly, Orthodox and Catholics address difficulties caused by the economic crisis and by poverty on the basis of their common grounds. We are not the ones who can give economic advice to society. But we can reiterate important ethical principles, whereby reality is the starting point”.
Let us begin with an analysis of reality.
“Reality is different. But I’d like to add that reality isn’t just mundane life and the world we all know and see. Reality is also the world founded on God’s existence. This elementary reality entails ethical consequences: we’re not responsible only for the Creation, for our life and for the lives of other human beings. We are called to respond to the Divine project of which we are a part. And if we look at the human person not in a reductive way but as a whole, encompassing his/her eternal vocation, then also the concept of common good is enhanced”.
Which are the ethical principles?
“We have seen that economic performance should be based not only on the basis of mathematical or abstract financial techniques. In fact, it should entertain close relations with real economy and especially with the working environment. Real economy cannot and must not be distant from people’s lives. We are facing a wide range of estrangements. Finances are estranged from real economy; real economy is estranged from State and society; State and society are recurrently alienated from people’s lives”.
How can we overcome these estrangements?
“We have to strengthen the family understood as the source of human relations, where individuals learn the importance of responsibility, mutual respect and love. Then we have to appreciate human labour as a value and as a source of wellbeing. We also have to step up our responsibility towards the community. In today’s personalized world people are tempted to loose faith in the knowledge of objective rules regulating social behaviour”.
What could the Church do?
“The Church can give a great contribution by prompting hope, in the transmission of values and ethical norms and by providing support. Our national Caritas network reaches out to people and triggers solidarity”.
In the front row - Catholics and Orthodox in Lisbon for a joint commitment[>>]
Invisible poverty - Catholic-Orthodox forum: interview with cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo[>>]
The circuits of change - Catholic-Orthodox Forum: interview with economist Luigino Bruni[>>]
A challenge for christian unity - In Lisbon, the third European Catholic-Orthodox Forum[>>]