- Europe english
Supporting the families
Annual meeting between the EU and religious communities on demographic issues
Discussions on intergenerational solidarity and other important demographic challenges, like tackling unemployment and reconciling work and private life, are among the topics discussed during the annual meeting of EU institutions and religious communities in Europe, held July 12 at the European Commission in Brussels. The encounter, which is enshrined in Art 17 of the Lisbon Treaty, is described as an open, transparent and regular dialogue, meant to resonate in the Community as the voice of Churches, representing the continent’s religious beliefs and their commitment at public, social, cultural and educational level, in the framework of solidarity and for the peaceful coexistence of peoples.
Churches and institutions. This year’s meeting was titled: “Intergenerational Solidarity: Setting the Parameters for Tomorrow’s Society in Europe” in the framework of the ’European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations.’ José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, hosted the event which was co-chaired by Laszlo Surjan, representing the European Parliament, and by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the EU Council. More than twenty senior representatives from Christian – Catholics, evangelicals, Orthodox, Anglicans - Muslim and Jewish religions and from the Hindu and Bahá’í communities from all over Europe were present. Among the dignitaries of the Catholic delegation figured: Msgr. André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Malines-Bruxelles; Msgr. Giovanni Ambrosio, bishop of Piacenza-Bobbio (Italy), vice-president of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community; Msgr. Virgil Bercea, bishop of Oradea Mare (Romania), also COMECE vice-president; Msgr. Adolfo Gonzalez Montes, bishop of Almeria (Spain). The Catholic delegation was looking forward to the meeting. In fact, last spring’s COMECE encounter focused on these same issues, and underlined that the mutual support of youth, adults, and old people, “remains the foundation of human development and of our society as a whole”.
For a fruitful future. The president of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, declared at the end of the meeting: “To tackle the economic crisis, we are doing a lot to ensure the right balance between solidarity and responsibility among Member States. But we need to devote at least as much attention to solidarity and responsibility among the young and the old. We will only be able to come out of this crisis and lay the foundations of a prosperous future if we keep solidarity between people and generations at the heart of our actions”. “Churches and religious communities are well placed to build bridges in our societies”. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, said: “A lost generation is something that we cannot afford nor at socio-economic nor, in particular, at human level, as we can not allow the exclusion of older people because they are less productive”. "The churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, as well as NGOs, schools and associations connected with them, are local meeting places, that can make an important contribution to the improvement of mutual understanding between generations”.
The voice of Catholic bishops. Msgr. André-Joseph Leonard said that among the possible options, - besides the reform of pension schemes and immigration - the reinforcement of families, “especially stable families, is the only sustainable way out of the crisis. This implies courageous steps in the field of fiscal policy, financial support for the third or fourth child, social measures fostering work-family life balance”. In this context, Msgr. Gianni Ambrosio, emphasised “the necessity for Europe and its Member States to preserve Sunday as a common weekly day of rest”. “Especially for the family, for the spiritual life of its members and for human relations, both inside the family and with relatives and friends, the common Sunday rest is of fundamental importance”. Msgr. Adolfo Gonzalez Montes, referring to the dramatic situation of unemployment in Spain, called on the EU to foster “sound and truly effective measures to fight youth unemployment”, and stressed the supporting role of EU funds. Msgr. Virgil Bercea, (Romania) highlighted the fact that families in East European countries are challenged by the fact that one or both parents have to travel to work in Western Europe and children grow up without one or both parent. He called upon EU institutions “to create specific mechanisms for countries such as Romania that will help them develop faster economically so they can provide opportunities for citizens” of East European countries.