“The family is not a problem but a solution for Europe. It is a source of invaluable resources for our European societies : it is its human capital”, wrote the presidents of European Bishops’ Conferences at the end of the CCEE plenary meeting held in Rome (October 2-4 2014) to reflect, ahead of the Synod for the Family, on the questions and phenomena directly related to the family and to the pastoral care of the family in Europe today. The encounter with Pope Francis on October 3, when the Holy Father showed that he is deeply aware of the situation in Europe, recalling various challenges and difficulties affecting Europe, stirred deep emotions. Taking inspiration from the address by Cardinal Péter Erdõ, Pope Francis called upon European bishops “not to be ashamed and to proclaim Jesus in clear terms: Jesus Christ is the solution to our problems”. Ideologies and truths. In a Europe that is coming to grips with austerity policies, European bishops highlighted the importance of laws and policies in support of the family. “The Church in Europe urges governments to be more aware that there is no other reality that can ‘produce’ human capital such as the family, and she calls for vigilance in the face of the damages that certain ideologies, which do not respect the truth of the family, can cause”. But the picture of the family in Europe today is not completely negative. The bishops expressed their gratitude to many Christian families in our continent “who live their faithfulness also in the midst of an individualistic culture”. But also these families need “appropriate pastoral care”. “It is a pastoral care that is based on the real experience of human beings, looking for traces of the presence of God in it”, said the prelates representing 33 bishops’ conferences and some forty nations. It is not “the execution of a draft prepared on paper” but rather, “the accompaniment – carried out by the priest and the Christian community – of couples and families who are the key players to understand the plan of God”. In the final statement of the Assembly European Bishops also address the delicate question of the failure of many marriages. It is a question that has catalysed the attention of the media since the Synod on the family was first announced. The CCEE bishops advance a concrete proposal: “In the conscience of many tragedies leading to the failure of many marriages, in addition to the appeal to perseverance there emerged the need to hasten annulment proceedings when the requested requirements are self-evident”. Grandmother or mother? In Rome the bishops have addressed the challenges experienced by families. Among them – said cardinal Péter Erdõ, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, CCEE president – emerges “a flight from constitutional commitment” that determines a decrease not only in religious but also in civil marriages. It’s a “paradoxical” situation given the fact that among the values that young people in Europe most yearn for there is the aspiration to having a family. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, vice-president of CCEE, has pointed a finger against the anthropological challenge that families are experiencing today. “We are experiencing – he said – a change in human alphabet whereby the basic concepts of love, family, life, freedom are changing in meaning and therefore need to be redefined”. Another elements that poses a risk to families to is the drop in births that signals – Bagnasco said – “the degree of hope and faith in the future”. Receiving the bishops in the Vatican also the Pope touched this theme, highlighting the “risk of a lack of generations”. And the question resounded again: “Is Europe a grandmother or a mother?” “Grandmothers – said Msgr. Angelo Massafra, Archbishop of Scutari-Pult, newly-elected vice-president of CCEE, quoting the Pope’s words, no longer generate. So Europe is called to be a living mother”. A message of peace. During the plenary meeting the bishops listed with great participation to the addresses of the shepherds of Ukraine and of other European Countries experiencing serious difficulties, with high numbers of victims and refugees, to the presence of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of the Latins in Jerusalem. “With the soul of shepherds – the bishops state in a message – we share the deep suffering of many brothers and sisters in faith and in humanity, while we call upon international authorities to adopt efficient, clear, and immediate measures to put an end to ongoing tragedies, and to ensure the return of refugees in the shortest amount of time, to their homelands in conditions of security and freedom”.
The plenary of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe focuses on the family. The meeting with the Pope