“Christians should be in the frontline”

Vesper (German Catholics): European project based on Church social doctrine " "

The values of the European Union, which for the “founding fathers” corresponded to the concepts of solidarity, democracy, brotherhood among peoples, wellbeing, are now being seriously questioned in the Old Continent. Social egoisms, nationalisms, populism and revanchist stances are worming their way through the public opinion. At the same time various appeals have been made – starting with that of the European Churches – to ensure that the forthcoming EP elections of May 22-25 may correspond to the tenets of European unity. Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZDK, Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken (Central Committee of German Catholics), conveyed to SIR Europe his opinion on the current state of European politics ahead of the next elections. What are the major critical aspects in a Europe that will soon go to the polls? “Indeed, the European Union is in the midst of one of its greatest challenges. But we cannot reduce contemporary Europe to the ongoing crisis and the critical aspects pertaining to it. The integration process has always had repercussions. But once the crises were overcome Europe always emerged stronger. European unification has been and still is the answer to two world wars. It has a historical significance for the overcoming of the division of our continent. The close cooperation and reconciliation between European countries had brought peace, freedom, democracy, rule of law and a increasing wellbeing. As a result, the force of attraction exerted towards neighbouring countries has been and is still remarkable. The reunification of Germany would have been unthinkable without the unification of Europe. However, these successes are not to be taken for granted they should always be consolidated and redeveloped”. What are your impressions, also in terms of the recent appeal presented in Brussels by the Initiative of Christians for Europe, with regard to the risk of low turnout and of the radicalization of the vote under the pressure of populist and nationalistic drifts? “Along with many associations of lay Catholics we have called for participation in EP elections. For us it is important to reaffirm that Christians are not mere ‘spectators’ of what is happening in society, but that we are active subjects. The founding fathers, -including Adenauer, Schuman, De Gasperi – have been actively committed Christians. That’s why I’m saying that Christians should go to the polls and vote for Democratic and pro-European parties. Nationalism and xenophobia are unacceptable positions for Catholics. And euro-sceptics should be told that the EU’s foundation – despite cultural diversity – reposes upon a major convergence on fundamental values. The Greek-Roman heritage, the Judeo-Christian tradition and the Enlightenment are elements that historically united Europe. The Christian image of human beings and Christian social doctrine are ethical foundations of our social market economy. Thanks to this model, whose essence consists in a balance between economic dynamics and social justice, Europe is perceived as an alternative project compared to world social forces, without borders. Now more than ever it’s important to safeguard this patrimony. And it can be done starting with May’s elections”. The crisis has often led to invoke budgetary rigour, austerity, growth, as well as job-creation. What are your evaluations? “For the Countries of recent adhesion, just as for other EU Countries, prevails the principle whereby political decisions taken today largely influence future living opportunities, along with the present ones, especially for the next generations. Youths have the right to access sustainable education. Debt reduction and severe budgetary discipline for the future are paramount, and they represent our responsibility towards the next generations. Having said this, and although the focus of the efforts in the EU and in the Eurozone should be resolutely based on budgetary consolidation along with the creation of sustainable growth and jobs, the provisions needed for this purpose cannot become a burden on the shoulders on weak social brackets”. How does ZDK face the need of strengthening the social protection of weaker brackets, also in the light of the social document of the German Catholic and Evangelical Churches? “One of the principles of Catholic social teaching is solidarity. Solidarity is also a key concept of the Lisbon Treaty. In overcoming this crisis it is necessary to highlight the principle that European countries must show mutual solidarity in difficult situations. The obligation to solidarity does not stop at national borders. There is a dialectical relationship between solidarity and responsibility at national level. On this aspect, the German Catholic and Protestant Bishops have launched an ‘Ecumenical Social Initiative’ to which the ZDK participates. Everyone can post their reflections on the website: www.sozialinitiative-kirchen.de“.

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