(Paris) “The difficulties the UK Government and MPs are facing in finding an agreement on Brexit, to the point that the risk of a no-deal Brexit cannot be ruled out, shows to all Europeans that leaving the Union means a full severance from the European common bond and that there is much to lose by separating from others”. Mgr. Georges Pontier, Archbishop of Marseille and president of the French bishops, said this last night in his opening remarks at the “Dialogue on the common good” promoted in Paris by the Presidencies of the Bishops’ Conferences of Germany, France and Switzerland. The meeting – ending today – is attended by 80 participants from three countries. Speakers also include women and men engaged in politics, such as former German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière; former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta; and former MEP Sylvie Goulard. Since 2015, the three Presidencies have been committed to arranging a meeting every two years on a current topic of common interest to the three countries. The first meeting was held in Rome in 2015 on the Synod on the Family; the second in Berlin in 2017 on migration. This year, also in view of the late-May European elections, the bishops have decided to hold a debate on Europe and the common good. Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it remains a privileged partner located in the heart of the European continent. The fact that Europeans are distancing themselves from the European project is a matter of concern to the European bishops.
In two months – the president of the French bishops said – each Member State will be voting in the European elections in a context that will be influenced by national and local politics”. A first assessment will be made on the “turnout rate which will then be analysed in each country as a sign of acceptance of, indifference to or even rejection of the European project”. Indeed, the elections in May will be affected by factors such as “the UK leaving the EU, the growth of populism, the migration issue in many countries, and the debate on the powers of the European Parliament and Commission”. “After decades of progress and confidence in Europe, we have now entered a period of turbulence, nationalism, and fear”, said Mgr. Pontier. “In the face of these nationalist trends, the notion of the common good is no longer clear. Europe needs to find a new momentum and we thought that a reflection on the common good could be a useful contribution to the current debate”. Enrico Letta in his speech repeatedly warned against the risk of another 27 Brexits and of Europe pulling back and making room for America and China, that is, for a government and market systems without rules. The future – former Italian Prime Minister said – needs Europe, it needs its “policies based on the defence of human dignity and the centrality of the person”. Sylvie Goulard, for her part, recalled that the Church has to encourage Europe “never to lose sight of the poorest in its decision-making process”.