Rekindling the project

Churches for Europe in the words of bishop Gianni Ambrosio

Believing in the EU, acting for the benefit of the “common home”, echoing Gospel proclamation across European society and within institutional seats with determination and clarity. On Friday March 19 Msgr. Gianni Ambrosio, bishop of Piacenza-Bobbio, representative of the Italian Bishops’ Conference at COMECE (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community) lectured at the meeting promoted by the Italian Federation of Catholic weeklies (186 newspapers), by the daily “Il nuovo Giornale” of Piacenza and by SIR Europe titled, “Building Europe. The roots and the future”, held March 18-20 in Piacenza (Italy).Structured dialogue. In his address, Bishop Ambrosio centered on two major themes. These are: the path characterizing EU approach to internal problems and reforms within the framework of the challenges Europe is called to address at global level, and the need for a structured dialogue between European Churches and the EU, thus enriching the EU path with the experience of communities of believers, nourishing the European “soul” called for almost twenty years ago, right in the middle of the Maastrich Treaty landmark, by the then EU Commission president Jacques Delors. The “open, transparent and regular” dialogue finally established in article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty, “entails mutual understanding, constructive confrontation and open discussion” between the EU and the Churches in Europe, Bishop Ambrosio said. “Growth deficits”. Msgr. Ambrosio devoted much of his reflection to the identification of areas where European integration is most encouraged, in order to provide convincing and feasible proposals for “the common European good”, which do not respond to national interests only. The Europe 2020 Strategy – on the agenda of the daily sessions in Brussels and Strasbourg – was addressed at length. The Strategy addresses economic growth and competitiveness, learning, research, climate change, energy, education and combating poverty. “The growth deficit involves the economy – the speaker pointed out. In this context marked by a serious economic crisis, the programmatic speech of EU Commission president Barroso cannot help prioritizing the situation. Europe 2020 qualitative and social objectives are under many aspects linked to economic growth. But however necessary, we cannot afford ignoring that this could turn out to be the sole true item of the current EU strategy. Is it legitimate to ask whether Europe’s gradual decline”, mentioned by Barroso, “can be overcome only through economic growth, as the President said that the future of Europe is at risk”. For Ambrosio, “evidently there also are other development deficits” and it “is advisable to point them out and address them with the different tools provided for by European civil society, within the Churches and the religious communities”. Roots, history and values. “First of all – the Italian bishop said – the idea of Europe must be rekindled, so as to bring Europe closer to citizens, and to recover, adapting it to the new European reality, the ideality that produced the European unification process”. The bishop referred to “fathers”‘ (Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer) vision of integration, to the historical bearing of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing developments. “The European adventure, undertaken with audacity by insightful personalities, enabled European citizens to come together and learn more about one another”, Msgr. Gianni Ambrosio remarked. “In this way, jointly reviewing their common history, European citizens discovered what they had in common and identified their distinctive features, viewed against their common background. Diffidence tied to the past has not yet been overcome completely, and the process of mutual understanding, cooperation and common policy is still very long. But the European project is undisputed. The common European destiny has been traced”. Moreover, “the idea of united Europe” is “less evident” today. Obstacles remain and it is necessary to prevent difficulties from developing further, such as declining birth-rates, the knot of the protection of the family and of life, ongoing poverty, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue… The bishop places special value on “the cultural revival of European integration, the promotion of the centrality of the human persona and of civil society” while extending our glance beyond the idea of a self-enclosed “homo economicus in order to promote the image of a European citizen who acknowledges the ties with others, with his roots, with his history and with his values”.

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