New times raise questions ” “but not concerns

Prague hosted the meeting of the general secretaries and spokespersons of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe promoted by CCEE

The psalms of praise are raised high, in Latin, with a melody that fills the naves of the beautiful cathedral of Saint Vito, in the heart of the Castle of Prague. Between these walls, rich in history and faith, hosting the gothic tombs of the Czech kings and the chapel of Saint Wenceslas, patron Saint of Bohemia, the general secretaries and the spokesperson of the bishops’ Conferences of Europe prayed for their Countries and for the entire continent. Around the altar is grounded the unity of the Catholic Church, called to live an epoch, rich with newness, pitfalls, challenges, holding the Gospel in our hands – were the words recurring in many addresses- in a Europe with strongly secularised traits. From June 17 to 21 the capital of the Czech Republic hosted the meeting promoted by the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) that tackled several themes such as the reform of ecclesial communication structures (introduced by Msgr. Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council of Social Communications); “transparency” inside the Church; the thorny issue of civil unions, homosexual marriage, gender. Specific focus was placed on major ecclesial events: the encyclical “Laudato si'”, published simultaneously with CCEE and illustrated by Msgr. Osvaldo Neves de Almeida, from the Secretary of State; the next Synod on the family, addressed by Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office; the Year of Mercy (“a live chat” with Msgr. Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization). In Prague convened the representatives of some thirty Bishops’ Conferences, each with its own traditions, rites, liturgical initiatives – pastoral and cultural alike – seeking “new avenues” to “testify the joy and the topical relevance of the Gospel”, according to a beautiful expression that echoed in the archbishopric that hosted the meeting. The language interpreters jointly relayed the speeches in Lithuanian and in German, Spanish and English, Bulgarian or Italian… The debates reflected various realities: from the Baltic and Scandinavian countries to the island of Malta, from Portugal to Scotland, from Switzerland to Moldavia. Difficulties were shared. The embrace – during the exchanges of peace at Mass – between the Ukrainian and Belarus bishops was a special, touching moment. Articulated and diverse interpretations of ecclesial urgencies were equally highlighted, given national differences at economic level that affect the lives of individuals and communities alike. At the same time the States intervene with dedicated legislation on a set of aspects with ethical and religious implications. As some observers remarked, “it’s the Church treading along the paths of the world”, “crossing peripheries”, whether “existential or technologic”. Countless quotations of Pope Francis’ Magisterium: the same encyclical on the environment and more precisely, the “Evangelii gaudium”, mark the ecclesial avenue. The discussions highlighted a constructive debate. They showed a renewed missionary determination. The new times interrogate us, but they don’t raise concerns. They prompt questions and suggest the quest for answers rooted in tradition or open to modernity. There is a sort of “distant dialogue” between Prague and Rome, with Pope Francis, his proposals, his reading of the present times, the avenues suggested to the Church to continue along the way, and give new impetus to the mission. A participant suggested: “The Holy Father invites us to go out, towards the existential peripheries. But we can go to the peripheries only if the centre is clear to everyone. The centre is God, He is the one who sends us”.

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