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COMECE: Juncker, “I appeal to you wise men. At present Europe needs patience and determination”

(From our correspondent in Brussels) “I appeal to you wise men. Wise men are patient and determined, and what Europe needs at present is patience and determination”. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said this at the end of his address to the delegates of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, who are meeting in Brussels for their Plenary Assembly these days. Juncker arrived at the COMECE headquarters in Square de Meeûs at 9:30 and delivered a 50-minute speech to the bishops, in which he did not mince his words about the EU’s current problems and future challenges. Juncker began by saying that the European Union “is certainly better than what is said to be”. It is first and foremost “an inclusive project” called – as John Paul II used to say – to “breathe with two lungs”. A continent impregnated with Christian values, where “the dignity of the human person” is “respected regardless of race or sexual orientation”. Juncker also expressed his appreciation for the call to vote that the EU bishops made to all citizens, young and old, on 14 February, in view of the end-of-May European elections. “Europe – Juncker said – cannot be left only in the hands of politicians”. “Europe is the responsibility of all”. The president of the European Commission also spoke of the “peacemaking” role that Europe can and should play in the world, although the latest demographic and economic trends show that our continent is expected to lose influence on the global stage in the near future. This is a challenge that we must tackle together. In this respect, Juncker addressed a few words to the populists, saying: “Europe is not against the Nations”; it is not a project that wants “identities to disappear in a European magma”, but a place where divergences and differences are respected and loved. Juncker in his speech also spoke of the wounds that are affecting Europe. Indeed, he referred to the issues of decent work and poverty, especially child poverty, and told the bishops: “The social doctrine of the Church is the most noble teaching of the Church”, and Europe must rediscover its values and guiding principles. As regards refugees, Juncker was realistic: he said Europe gave a “technocratic response”, and in this respect he also said that he had appreciated the statement of Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of COMECE, on “our shared responsibility to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate” migrants and refugees in our societies, as indicated by Pope Francis. In this regard, Juncker also insisted on the need to start an African programme, for it is only by enhancing the development of countries of that continent that we can prevent young people from “dying at sea”. Juncker only briefly mentioned Brexit at the end of his speech. “It is a very serious issue”, he said, adding that the European Union intends to maintain “friendly relations” with the United Kingdom, based on the “shared history” and “common values” that have always united the UK and the EU.


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