A dialogue Forum to “Rethink Europe” is schedule to take place in Rome on October 27-29. It will be promoted by COMECE (the body that coordinates the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union in Brussels) in conjunction with the Holy See in the year marking the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Rome. Pope Francis will take the floor during the meeting to deliver a “strong” address on Europe and on the future of the EU at a time when our continent is going through a deep crisis and is seeking new ways to re-establish its project. COMECE bishops discussed this important event with the Pope during a meeting in the Vatican on May 16. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, is the President of COMECE.
Your Eminence, why organize a meeting on “Rethinking Europe”, and who is it addressed to? The idea of the dialogue Forum was planned a couple of years ago. The fact that it has been welcomed also by the Holy See has filled us with great joy. The Secretary of State told me that the Pope himself had identified the need to promote a similar initiative, and now the proposal is to organize it together. We would like to create a dialogue assembly. The idea is not that of a large conference with speakers who already know all the answers. Rather, our intention is to promote a dialogue process between Church dignitaries (bishops and lay Catholics) and political leaders, those with political responsibilities and decision-making powers. According to our experience, reaffirmed by the Pope in our conversation,
politicians are seeking guidelines for the future of Europe. We are facing an existential crisis.
We have seen it with the Brexit vote, with the spread of nationalisms, with the question of the Euro zone. There are no easy solution to these issues, this leads to the need for strong and new guidelines for Europe’s future.
The EU project has turned 60. It’s going through what is probably one of the most serious crises in its history, ranging from the threat of terrorism to the migration phenomenon. Which “European” wound worries you the most? Fear and the lack of fear. As we all know, the crisis has deep roots. But on March 24, in the Sala Regia, during the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome attended by EU heads of Government and State, the Pope said that the crisis is a possibility, it’s a calling, thus it’s not necessarily something negative. The crisis is a chance, it can signal that it’s time to take a decision, to understand where our future is. We all know that the crisis confronts us with serious issues, but it also prompts us not to remain idle and take decisions.
We can’t afford to do nothing
We have to make up our minds and take action. Going back to the past, to the Nineteenth Century, the century of nationalisms, populism, to the century of partisan interests, is impossible. Most of our people are aware of this. We must encourage people to follow the other way, which is that of working together and understanding that this joint effort is possible only if it involves everyone. Today Europe expects us to progress in the direction of a deeper form of solidarity. As Jean Monnet once said, Europe is a project to create a better world. It’s simple, not ideological, and not romantic. It’s an idea, a powerful idea. With Europe the world must be a better place, not a worse one.
Over the last few weeks various parties conveyed the need for a re-foundation of the European Union. It was the underlying theme of the meeting between France’s President-elect Emmanuel Macron, and Angela Merkel. What guidelines would you suggest in this delicate transition phase of European history? Great ideas – working for peace, for a better world, implementing a higher number of projects, along with the need to re-establish the Euro currency Union – create the conditions for EU stability. It’s a major issue with no easy solution. Countries such as Germany and France are important. But we must act together, with all the Countries of the European Union. For us, the guidelines for the future are those of the Social Doctrine of the Church such as subsidiarity, namely, understanding when it’s important to take decisions at European level and when instead it’s more productive for these decisions to be taken at national level. Subsidiarity is a principle that is critical to the recovery of peoples’ confidence. Followed by solidarity. If, for example, we have no idea about how to solve the problem of unemployment in Countries like Italy and Spain, Europe as a whole will struggle to have a future. Nobody can say “this is a problem that doesn’t concern us” because it’s a common problem. Europe’s development must repose on a solid social pillar for
if people have no prospects, if youths can’t find a job, if families find it hard to build their future, they will stop believing in the European project.
This means that even though the European project has turned 60 it shouldn’t be considered dated? Absolutely not. It’s the future.
Why? I believe that we live in a world where people are more interconnected and close to one another compared to the past. Going back to a world closed in on itself, going back to particularisms, is not possible. We are called to move forward, and to so together.