An "open", "transparent" and "structured" dialogue: Art 17 of the Lisbon Treaty, the fundamental document of the European Union, provides for continuous communication between communitarian bodies and religious communities, marked by meetings and cooperation on issues that fall within the province of the EU. It is one of the themes addressed during the fifteenth EU-Church dialogue meeting, promoted by the European People’s Party in Florence, September 7-8. Unprecedented challenges. A large panel of speakers from world countries addressed questions ranging from the social consequences of the crisis to the support to the family, from job prospects for the youth to dropping birth-rates and migration flows. Participants also tackled the question of improving education, of solidarity, cultural diversity, and of religious pluralism. The welcoming speech was delivered by Italian MEP Carlo Casini, jurist, president of the Constitutional Affairs Commission of the European Parliament. "The dialogue between the political realm and the churches is all the more important today – Casini pointed out -. The economic crisis has raised enormous, often unprecedented challenges" which deeply impacted citizens’ lives and social issues. Casini recalled the personal commitment of a large portion of European faithful in the areas of volunteer work, culture, and education. He underlined the "countless opportunities" they leave in their wake, whereby Christians act as the "protagonists" of initiatives for the defense of human life, notably, he added, the citizens’ initiative "One of Us", for the juridical protection of the human embryo. The vision of the human person. Panel speakers included policymakers, scholars, prelates, as well as Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders. A leitmotif of the meeting was the ongoing recession and its social and political backlash. "The current picture of a Europe that is united only by the common currency doesn’t have many chances", said Msgr. Claudio Maniago, vicar general of the diocese of Florence, during the meeting. Thus it is also necessary for Europe "to recover its authentic, original soul" also with the dialogue between the EU and the religious communities". "The ongoing problematic season" equally affects the "economic, cultural and spiritual realms". That’s why "Europe should recover its authenticity, its roots, those very roots that characterised its unique facet". The auxiliary bishop highlighted "the transcendent dimension of the human person" to avoid the risk of referring to "a one-dimensional human model". "Only an integral vision of the human person" enables the understanding of expectations and demands. Addressing "the essence and the identity of the human person", according to Msgr. Maniago, will provide the tools to "address the economic aspect within a comprehensive framework". A two-faceted crisis. In an articulate speech, the General Secretary of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, Msgr. Piotr Mazurkiewicz, said that the crisis brought to the fore a series of thorny issues, approaches, cultural and political flaws, that ought to be clarified. He mentioned solidarity ("which means taking the burden of someone else’s wellbeing"), democracy ("is it possible to organize democracy at supranational level?"), the poor, the family, ("to be defended at legislative and at concrete level", for example with measures promoting work-family balance). Thus the economic crisis should also be seen as an "opportunity", i.e. as an occasion to identify the authentic, jointly-shared objectives of European integration, in order to provide political solutions, without renouncing our Christian "hope", which differently from a naïve form of optimism, is a thrust to undertake "commitment and concrete action in the world, while entrusting the final "Plan" to "God". This is "our unshakeable hope". Concrete proposals. Slovakian MEP Anna Zaborska highlighted that "the economic crisis reflects a moral crisis" which in turn will have repercussions "on living standards, interpersonal relations, and family serenity". Hence a set of suggestions were made for concrete initiatives in favour of youth, of women, of small and medium enterprises, of microcredit and of all levels of education. Katharina Von Schnurbein, European Commission officer in charge of relations with the churches, recognised "the value of dialogue undertaken by institutions and religious communities" that should continue "beyond the official gatherings" and of which "European citizens should be made aware of".
Institutions and religions together in autonomy for the common good