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Volunteering in Europe: a population of 100 million people.

Over 100 European adults are engaged in volunteer work. In EU countries approximately 22-23% of people aged over 15 are engaged in some form of volunteering activity. Religious organizations represent the third most important volunteering sector in Europe, besides sport and education. These are some of the most relevant findings of a survey on Catholic volunteering in Europe presented to European bishops in Poznan. “No other institution in Europe gives such a comprehensive volunteering contribution, promoting diversified forms of volunteering, as the Catholic Church”

foto SIR/Marco Calvarese

A silent but strongly motivated “solidarity population in Europe.” It is estimated that over 100 million adults are engaged in volunteering services. This means that in the countries of the European Union about 22-23% of people over the age of 15 are engaged in some form of voluntary activity. Religious organizations represent the third most important volunteering sector in Europe, besides sport and education. It’s a snapshot of “the other Europe” emerging from a survey on volunteering promoted by the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE), conducted by the Statistics Bureau of the Catholic Church in Poland. The survey on “Catholic volunteering in Europe” was presented in Poznan, Poland, to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe gathered for their annual plenary assembly. It’s a complex survey based on existing data and research on volunteering service in Europe, which this year asked a group of experts in “Catholic volunteering” at national level, from 27 bishops’ Conferences, representing 29 Countries, to answer a set of “open” questions.

A platform for cooperation and encounter. The survey shows that Catholic institutions in almost all European Countries enjoy an “independent” legal status, they are granted by the State the same legal recognition as NGOs and non-profit organizations.

European people are characterised by a very positive attitude towards volunteer work.

and, especially in Western Countries, volunteering and third sector organizations are successfully incorporated with the institutional framework. Volunteering –reads the summary of the research – “is a meeting platform for Catholics and non-Catholics.” Hence, there are many Catholics involved in “non-Catholic volunteering activities” and many non-Catholics who carry out volunteering service in Catholic organizations. “They are attracted by the positive image of the Church, or simply by practical issues”, the experts said. Moreover, by and large, “there is no competition between Catholic and non-Catholic volunteering. That’s the reason why volunteering is a form of ecumenism and of interreligious dialogue.”

 

The way of evangelization, especially for the young. Volunteering is normally associated with a wide range of motivations, ranging from psychological motivations such as “pleasure and joy” to “theological” ones, such as the “calling” and the “mission.”

Faith is “an important motivation for engaging in volunteering work.”

A number of experts pointed out that “volunteering activity reflects personal commitment inside the religious community”, acting as a vehicle of “moral catholic teaching.” In fact, the notion of volunteering implies a Christian understanding of the human person as a “free person”, called to “the gift of self-giving.” For this reason “Catholic” volunteering has also positive formative effects, besides being an opportunity for evangelization and youth pastoral ministry.

Some non-Catholics doing volunteering activity in Catholic organizations, young people in particular, decide to carry out their service in Catholic organizations motivated by the “quest for spirituality.”

Volunteering influences “the spirit of solidarity in Europe.” “Volunteering shapes modern Europe and is a practical form of solidarity”, the researchers wrote in the survey’s presentation. “Volunteering involves not only what we do and how we behave. It implies a form of spirituality. That’s why volunteering and religion are strictly intertwined. Faith and religious organizations are fundamental building blocks of volunteering work and contribute to the spirit of solidarity in Europe. Catholicism represents an important part of this European spirit of solidarity.

No other institution in Europe gives such a comprehensive volunteering contribution, promoting diversified forms of volunteering, as the Catholic Church.”

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