For the first time in the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, Churches and Christian organizations across Europe will present a joint document to European institutions and Member States with a series of proposals and recommendations for combating poverty and social exclusion, in the framework of the Lisbon Treaty. The title, “Do not deny justice to your poor people” – (Exhodus, 23:6), is drawn from the Bible. The ecumenical conference will take place in Brussels next September 30, at the European Parliament (room PHS 7C 50, at 14:30-18;00 hrs.), on the initiative of Eurodiaconia (a federation of 33 Christian organizations from 21 Countries), Caritas Europa (representing 48 Caritas), CEC (Conferences of European Churches) and COMECE (The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union). “New paths for solidarity: a joint commitment to combating poverty and social exclusion”: this is the title of the conference sponsored by Jerzy Burzek, President of the European Parliament, who will deliver the welcoming address. “Ten years ago – the promoters pointed out – the European Union committed itself “to make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty by 2010”. Recent figures refer to 84 million people or 17% of the EU population who are at risk of living in poverty today. The European Council agreed in June 2010 on a poverty and social exclusion target of lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. The conference will be attended by members of the European Parliament, Commission, along with representatives of the different Christians Churches and organizations, amongst whom figure Msgr. Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and COMECE vice-President, and Heather Roy, from Eurodiaconia. Orthodox CEC members and Catholic Caritas representatives will deliver the closing speeches. The previous meeting. Past July 19 was held the annual Meeting of European Union institutions (Parliament, Council and Commission) with the responsible of the major Churches and religious communities. Debates focused on possible concrete actions to face poverty and social exclusion, also in view of the fact that the EU recently approved a strategy (Europe 2020) on economic growth, employment and for combating poverty. “An incontestable role is played by charity organizations and services implemented by religious communities in Europe to counter poverty and promote the moral and spiritual growth” of Europe, said on that occasion the President of the E.U. Commission – which hosted the meeting – José Manuel Barroso. Some twenty Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh leaders from 14 Countries attended the meeting. Also Jerzy Buzek, president of the EU parliament, recalled, “combating poverty and social exclusion is a task that demands everyone’s cooperation, whether they are lay or religious representatives, at local, national and European level”. “Our main and most important priority – he said – is to recover social and economic safety. Churches can give a fundamental contribution to this regard. With their long-dated experience in this field, they share the work carried out with individuals and communities”. Promoting social cohesion and solidarity. At the Meeting Cardinal Péter Erdö, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and President of the Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), recalled: “The problem of poverty can be fully addressed provided that we understand the underlying anthropological question”. The Church, he said, is committed socially “not only in her institutional capacities but also with the creation of personal relations and through education”. Msgr. Adrianus van Luyn, bishop of Rotterdam and president of COMECE (the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community), underlined, “combating poverty with only technical and administrative tools risks being unproductive. In this way the poor are considered “objects of assistance”. On the contrary, they must be helped become the ‘active players’ in the common struggle against poverty and exclusion”. In the closing address the EU Commission conveyed its appreciation to Catholic, Orthodox Reformed leaders and to leaders of non-Christian faiths for their stand and “encouraged European institutions to boost their current thrust, especially in order to step up access to the job market, to offer targeted social services across Member States and guarantee equal access to education and training”. Religious leaders reiterated their “ongoing commitment to promote social cohesion and step up solidarity and civic commitment amongst European citizens”.
Churches and Christian organizations present the document to EU institutions