The need for justice

Europe: an ecumenical document at the EU Parliament

Europe needs “justice” to provide people and families with “the means to lead a full and dignified life”, said COMECE Secretary General Msgr. Piotr Mazurkiewicz, in the opening speech of the conference held September 30 at the European Parliament building in Brussels, in the framework of the European Year for Combating Poverty, during which was presented the ecumenical document titled “Do not deny justice to your poor people” (cf SIR Europe: link here). “The Churches’ hope and commitment”. The theme was addressed at length by Church organizations, charities and social works representatives, by politicians, along with EU Commission and Parliament officers and experts. Participants agreed on prioritising actions aimed at the eradication of poverty (teaching how to fish, and not only giving fish to the hungry, as was said on several occasions referring to the evangelical parable and the ancient Chinese proverb), by stepping up cooperation between national political institutions, the EU, along with concerned bodies and organizations. Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, publicly thanked Church organizations for their “important contribution”; “you are much closer to people than us politicians are, and you bring in this area your experience, territorial services, human contact and hope”. “The commitment against exclusion must be stepped up, given the strong repercussions of the economic crisis that we are dealing with”. Buzek underlined that 80 million EU citizens are poor or live on the threshold of poverty. “there are countries where unemployment among the youth reaches 40%”, he said. “In this way we run the serious risk of losing an entire generation”. Buzek reiterated the need for “effective political action” at national and European level and of welfare reforms, delving into themes such as social security and employment. The role of EU27. Courageous political action is needed in Europe, “based on the principle of subsidiarity”. Dieter Heidtmann (CEC), presented the contents of the poverty document drawn up by ecclesial bodies which he co-authored and underlined “the delays in EU social policies”. Indeed, “combating poverty ought to become the objective of all EU initiatives”. In commenting some of the 14 “recommendations” which Churches addressed to the EU to uproot poverty, Heidtmann denounced “consumerist” “values and lifestyles”, which tend to increase poverty and weaken solidarity bonds. “With this document”, he explained, “we don’t expect to address all the problems related to poverty. But we wish to contribute to Europe’s political debate” bringing the experience matured by the churches. Philippe Courard, Belgian State Secretary for Social Integration, said: “When we speak of poverty we cannot only focus on the lack of money” or material means. “Efforts must be placed to ensure social and health services and housing”. Mr. Courard mentioned other areas of intervention such as culture, the family, minors, Roma’s integration. “These issues – he added – are at the top of the agenda of the Belgian EU president-in office”.Respecting the Charter of Rights. “Poverty is an even more scandalous reality in Europe, in our rich society. Our efforts must focus on protecting human dignity” by remedying the disparities between the rich and the poor. The Archbishop of Munich (Germany), Msgr. Reinhard Marx, commented on the document drawn up by the churches and charity organizations inviting them to comply with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The bishop underlined “the relevance of formation and culture” in order to eliminate unemployment and “place the foundations to overcome poverty”. Msgr. Marx reflected on a wide range of themes and reiterated: “It is necessary to identify responsibilities”, so that politics may play its role, and that societies and volunteer organizations” such as Caritas and Eurodiaconia “may do the same”. The German bishop underlined that Caritas with its workers is near people in need, it supplies services, and with the Catholic Church it intends to “raise a prophetic voice in defense of the poor”. But political institutions should carry out “concrete action” that respond to “the needs of those living on the boundaries of society”. During the debate it was said on various occasions that good intentions must be followed by effective action, considering that resources available for social measures are always very limited.

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