(from Poznan) – It is estimated that over 100 million adults are engaged in voluntary work in Europe. This means that about 22-23% of people aged over 15 across the EU are engaged in some form of volunteering. Religious organizations are the third most important sector of voluntary work in Europe, after sport and education. And religious beliefs are an essential motivation for voluntary work. These are the main results of a survey on volunteering, promoted by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences and carried out by the Institute of Statistics of the Catholic Church in Poland. The study on “Catholic volunteering in Europe” was presented this morning to the presidents of the European Bishops’ Conferences who are gathered for their annual plenary assembly in Poznan, Poland. This year the Bishops are focusing in particular on the theme of the spirit of solidarity in Europe.
Besides taking into account existing data and research on voluntary work in Europe, the investigation, in the past few months, has also put a series of 29 open questions to a group of national experts in “Catholic volunteering” from 27 Bishops’ Conferences in Europe representing 29 countries. The survey shows that in almost all European countries, Catholic organizations and institutions enjoy an “autonomous” (civil) legal status, and from a legal standpoint are recognized by the State as equal to non-governmental civil organizations or non-profit organizations (NGOs). Europeans show a strong positive attitude towards volunteering. Voluntary service is generally associated with a broad spectrum of motivations, ranging from psychological ones, like “joy and pleasure”, to more “theological” ones, such as one’s “calling” or “mission”. Faith is “an important motivation for volunteering” – the summary of the survey reads -, yet this field of social action is everywhere “a platform bringing together Catholics and non-Catholics”. In other words, not only are there many Catholics engaged in “non-Catholic volunteering”, but there are also non-Catholics who volunteer with Catholic organizations. “They are either attracted by a positive image of the Church or by practical issues”, the experts say. But in general, “there is no competition between Catholic and non-Catholic volunteering”.