The annual meeting of the CCEE, celebrating this year its forty-fifth anniversary, was held in the Principality of Monaco on the invitation of its local Archbishop, Msgr. Bernard Barsi.
The intense and fruitful work took place in an atmosphere of consolidated fraternity and with pastoral love for the peoples of the continent. Starting from the deep experience of unity experienced in these days, the bishops reaffirmed their commitment to reflect on the best ways to value the various social and ecclesial realities today. In the wake of the theme of the next Synod of Bishops, the Presidents agreed to direct the next stages of reflection and work of the CCEE to the pastoral care of young people, their faith, and vocational discernment.
The assembly of Monaco has been enriched by the private audience with Prince Albert II, who welcomed and received the representatives of the European episcopate in the Prince’s Palace.
In Monaco, the Presidents of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences elected the new CCEE Presidency for the five-year period 2016-2021. As President, they elected Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. The new Vice-Presidents are Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and the Archbishop of Poznan, Msgr. Stanisław Gądecki, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Poland.
The Plenary Assembly expressed its gratitude to the members of the outgoing Presidency, Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest (President in the period 2006 through 2016) and the Archbishop of Scutari-Pült, Msgr. Angelo Massafra, for their work for the good of the Church and their dedication in promoting fraternal communion among the European bishops.
Among the topics discussed this year: the mission of the CCEE in the Church in Europe; the situation of Christians in the world, and especially in the Holy Land; the relations with the Orthodox Churches in the light of the recent meeting of Cuba and the Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. This discussion was also attended by our guests who represented the continental ecclesial bodies for Africa (SECAM), Latin America (CELAM), Asia (FABC), and Oceania (FBCO), who informed the other participants about the challenges of the Church in their respective continents.
In Nice, the bishops visited the memorial for the victims of the attack of July 14, 2016, on the “Promenade des Anglais” for a short moment of prayer and recollection.
During the meeting they also heard the reports of the CCEE commissions. The Assembly welcomed the efforts and the projects and confirmed its gratitude and appreciation for their work. The bishops then heard the reports of the Catholic Church representatives who follow the activities of the European institutions, and expressed their appreciation for the work carried out by the Apostolic Nuncio in Brussels, the COMECE, and the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the Council of Europe.
The Conference ended with the adoption of a clear and strong message which included the condemnation of the persecution of Christians across the world and the various forms of intolerance or discrimination suffered by Christians in Europe. (Please find the text of the message at the end of this press release).
The next CCEE plenary assembly will take place from the 28th of September to the 1st of October, 2017, in Mińsk (Belarus) on the invitation of the local archbishop, Msgr. Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Belarus.
Message adopted by the CCEE Plenary Assembly
Principality of Monaco
October 9, 2016
As Bishops Presidents of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, gathered in the Principality of Monaco for our annual meeting, we dealt with the tragic urgency of the growing acts of persecution against many Christians in various parts of the world. We strongly express our firm condemnation of these events which affect human rights and especially religious freedom. These are manifestations of an irrational violence which is fuelled, too often, by a call to religious motivations that are an abuse and an insult to the very name of God.
We treasure the enlightened Magisterium of Pope Francis who, on many occasions, denounced the unjust reference to God in the practice of violence, also emphasized in the Joint Declaration by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill (February 12, 2016) that we have examined in our meeting.
As bishops gathered in Monaco and moved by a pastoral concern, we call on those who rule over peoples and nations, on a domestic and international level, to ensure the dignity and integrity of individuals and communities, especially the most vulnerable.
Religions, when authentic, always aim at being a factor of human growth and complete development. In this perspective, we hope that even in Europe – where there are many socio-cultural signs pointing towards a marginal role assigned to Christianity through discriminatory practices – we carefully consider that a healthy secularism implies the recognition of the true value of religion in society and in the life of peoples.
Eliminating or denying citizenship to the God of Jesus Christ is no guarantee to development, it is rather the source of spiritual and moral impoverishment that characterizes our times and, in the long run, also generates social, economic, and cultural impoverishment.
To our Christian brothers and sisters who suffer from marginalization and discrimination, and especially to those who are persecuted, we express our closeness. We shall not be silent, and certainly we shall not forsake you.
With our thoughts addressed to those who have died while confessing their faith in Christ, we remember the luminous value of their witness as well as the commitment of our witness.
In the Year of Mercy, we know that our hope is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ, a Gospel of forgiveness and peace for all which we joyfully proclaim to the peoples of our continent.