EU Bishops: Social policy can not be subject to profit

2012-09-06 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Europe’s bishops are calling on EU leaders to stop subjecting social policy to criteria of economic profitability.

In a statement released at the end of a three day summit in Cyprus, theCouncil of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE) bishops responsible for social issues note an increasing social exclusion with a significant lack of adequate social protection for people worst hit by the crisis.

The bishops confirmed the conviction that Europe needs Christianity and that Christians have a special responsibility for the future of Europe.

Below the full text of their concluding statement:
The concerns of the European bishops:
The European crisis is not just economic but first of all anthropological
At the root of the current crisis situation which the European continent is experiencing lie not only the serious problems connected with the economic-financial systems, but above all the lack of an anthropological and social vision focused on solidarity and subsidiarity. This was the view expressed by the European bishops responsible for social issues meeting in Cyprus from 3-5 September. Social policies cannot be built on simple criteria of profitability, which puts a strain on the social cohesion of the old continent. The future of Europe and social exclusion are real challenges for the Church, committed to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus who brings true justice and peace to the world.

The European bishops, responsible for pastoral social issues in their respective Bishops’ Conferences, met for three working days (3-5 September) in Nicosia, Cyprus, for the first meeting of the Caritas in veritate Commission of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), chaired by His Grace Mgr Giampaolo Crepaldi, who led the meeting. The participants were welcomed by the Maronite Eparchy of Cyprus and its Archbishop, His Grace Mgr Youssef Soueif.

In Cyprus, the European delegates met His Excellency Dimitris Christofias, President of the Republic of Cyprus and duty President of the Council of the European Union for this second semester of 2012. He wished to express his concern about the crisis in Europe and his Government’s commitment to seek to strengthen the Union’s social policies. They were also received by His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, as a testimony of the good relations existing between the two Churches. The participants were delighted at the visit and greeting from Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, CCEE Vice-president.

The bishops met to reflect together on the Church’s role in strengthening social cohesion in Europe. To animate the discussions of the national delegates were the interventions of the Archbishop of Dublin, Mgr Diarmuid Martin; of the Professor from the Pontifical Lateran University, Vincenzo Buonomo; and, finally, from two members of the Cypriot Parliament, Professor Andreas Pitsillides and Professor Marios Mavrides.

The delegates’ reflections began considering first of all the consequences of the passage from a certain euphoria about the economic progress of the previous years to the current profound collapse in financial and economic, and consequently political, systems. The Catholic Church, enlightening this situation with the principles of its social doctrine, aims to renew its own commitment in the social and cultural spheres with the light and strength of faith. In fact, the thought of Pope Paul VI was recalled, when he stated that among the causes of a lack of development was a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thought capable of indicating a sense of direction. This is the area in which the European bishops intend to contribute with their specific mission as Christians.
Examining the significance of social cohesion in the provisions and policies of the European Union one perceives the absence of an anthropological and social vision capable of accommodating the person and society in all their dimensions.

In essence, present in European policies are a whole series of indicators which represent similarly essential elements, capable of directing or even determining life styles, social dimensions, participation, decision-making processes: this is certainly a challenge for the Catholic Church and the Christian communities in Europe. One of the major problems of an integrated Europe is increasing social exclusion, with a significant lack of adequate social protection, determined by a social action no longer uniform for the different components of society, but personalised at times on the basis of exclusively economic criteria to the point of subjecting social policy to criteria of economic profitability. This aspect touches directly on the objective of social cohesion in Europe.

The interpretation of subsidiarity given by European politics, seeing it as a simple work supported by the member States but controlled by the European institutions, seems insufficient. Instead, subsidiarity capable of supporting social cohesion needs a precise regulatory framework which in addition demands to be founded on the principle of solidarity.

The bishops confirmed the conviction that Europe needs Christianity and that Christians have a special responsibility for the future of Europe, so that education and instruction value the rich European culture, that art and culture might dialogue with religious faith without fundamentalism from either side and, finally, that cultural exchanges above all between the young people of Europe may have broad horizons.
Assessing the specific mission of the Church, the bishops, recalling the Second Vatican Council, confirmed that the Church proclaiming Christ to humanity also reveals to the human person his or her own nature and for this reason the proclamation of Christ in temporal reality – in which the Social Doctrine of the Church is summarised – is in itself a factor of development and social cohesion. A fundamental commitment of social pastoral work and therefore of the church bodies working in the social sphere is that of strengthening their ability for cultural dialogue. One cannot think of being in dialogue with the world tackling only content or the problems; there is a need to tackle the cultural presuppositions of the problems, too. In this regard a greater collaboration between bodies and pastoral social services of the various Bishops’ Conferences of Europe is very important .

During the meeting, various reports were presented from the different countries about the Church’s work in the social sphere. From these reports emerged the commitment and beauty of the charity lived out by so many Christian communities and people. These are the signs of a profound love for all people and which ensure that the Church can proclaim hope even in a world in crisis.

This meeting was a significant opportunity to pool information and promote exchanges between the participants. From the various reports some common threads emerged:
    In all the reports the word which runs through them all is “crisis”, understood not just from an economic point of view but from an ethical-cultural one, too;
    At the centre of the social question is the anthropological question. As the Encyclical Caritas in veritate recalls, the social question has now become anthropological as testified by the social concerns linked to the areas of life, the family, and artificial insemination;
    The Church’s social doctrine is a united point of reference.

The meeting was marked by various moments of prayer and numerous opportunities for meetings with the different local Catholic communities. In addition, the bishops visited places of significance for the Christian presence on the island, monasteries, religious and cultural sites. In particular they went to some Maronite villages in the north of the island, to witness to their solidarity with the Maronite community which, as happens with other Christian communities, too, wants to return to the villages, a fundamental issue for the existence and future of the community.

The Council of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE) includes the current 33 European Episcopal Conferences, represented by their Presidents, and the Archbishops of Luxembourg, of the Principality of Monaco, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus and the Bishop of Chişinău (Moldova Rep.) and the Eparchial Bishop of Mukachevo. The President is Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary; the Vice-Presidents are Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, and Mgr Józef Michalik, Archbishop of Przemyśl, Poland. The General Secretary is Mgr Duarte da Cunha. The Secretariat is based at St Gallen (Switzerland).