COMECE: Europe needs to recover hope and fulfil its vocation to peace

The Vice-President of COMECE, Archbishop Antoine Hérouard, speaks to Vatican News about the European bishops’ concerns for the future of Europe following the recent EU elections and highlights the need for EU institutions to be closer to people’s needs and to rediscover its founding spirit of peaceful unity amid conflict.

Jun 24, 2024

COMECE members meet Pope Francis on 22 June 2024 (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

By Lisa Zengarini
Pope Francis met on June 22, Saturday with the Presidencies of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

During his meeting with the COMECE the Holy Father discussed a number of topics, including the ongoing war in Ukraine and the outcome of the recent European elections, which have seen a significant increase in nationalistic and Eurosceptic parties in several, specifically in several Western European countries.

After the audience Archbishop Antoine Hérouard, who serves as Vice-President of COMECE, shared with Vatican News the European bishops’ concerns on the challenges facing the EU institutions at this critical time, and the role Christian Churches and other religious communities can play in helping Europe rediscover its  “European soul”, as Pope Francis put it, its founding spirit of peaceful unity also to confront Russia's war in Ukraine.

Nationalism isn’t the solution to challenges facing Europe
In the interview Archbishop Hérouard highlighted the need for more solidarity among EU members, noting that Europe is “weak” in the international arena, and remarking that nationalism isn’t the solution to the many challenges it is confronted with, including the hot-button issue of migration.

Dissatisfaction with European institutions
Regarding the recent European Parliament elections, Archbishop Hérouard observed that the results confirm the dismay of many European citizens at some of the EU's decisions. This, he said, is particularly true in some crucial founding members of the EU, like France, Germany, Belgium and Italy where far-right parties have gained significant ground, due to the perception of Brussels as being out of touch with ordinary people’s daily life problems.

However, he noted, this has been surprisingly less the case in some Eastern European members, like Poland, Slovakia, Romania and even Hungary, which have seen pro-European parties gain more votes.

Overall, despite nationalist groups now holding one-quarter of the seats — up from one-fifth in 2019,  the so-called pro-European ‘Ursula’ coalition has maintained its majority.

According to Archbishop Hérouard, it is early days to predict if the new Parliament and Commission will yield to the pressures of nationalist groups, and adopt a tougher stance, for example, on opposition to immigration, climate adjustments, and other topics.

Strengthening Europe's voice and solidarity
The Vice-President of COMECE remarked that what Europe needs at this moment is to focus on the common good of the Union and, therefore, to strengthen its voice in its member states, if it is to play a role in the international arena to bring peace in the world, starting from Ukraine. 

Role of Churches in building bridges
Churches, along with other religious communities, he said, can contribute to this end by encouraging dialogue, and building bridges, as Pope Francis encouraged the European bishops to do, thus offering a message of hope that Europeans seem to have lost.

“We are not a political party, we don't have solutions, but we have to show that problems are always wider than the immediate interests of individual countries.”

Concluding, Archbishop Hérouard remarked that the European Union will be stronger if it reconsiders the place of religions and beliefs in its member States European.--Vatican News

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