European and Latin American Bishops Foster Rapprochement at All Levels

Encourage Economic and Political Ties

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ROME, JAN. 20, 2003 ( Representatives of the bishops of Europe and Latin America met in Rome to encourage further economic and political relations between both sides of the Atlantic.

The meeting last Thursday brought together the presidents of the Latin American bishops’ council (CELAM) and the Commission of the Episcopates of the European Community (COMECE).

It aimed, in part, to evaluate the latest progress in relations between Latin America and the European Union.

Among other things, the bishops applauded:

— the series of negotiations for an agreement of association between Mercosur and the European Union, which was held in Brasilia, Brazil, from Nov. 11-15.

— the signing on Nov. 18 in Brussels of an agreement of association between Chile and the European Union.

— the signing on Nov. 19 in Brussels of a memorandum on cooperation between Brazil and the European Union.

— the first forum of civil society of the European Union and Mexico, held in Brussels on Nov. 26 to study the implementation of the agreement on political cooperation and economic association.

CELAM’s delegation was headed by its president, Bishop Jorge Jiménez Carvajal. COMECE’s delegation was led by its president, Bishop Josef Homeyer.

The meeting began with a thanksgiving prayer for the release of Bishop Jiménez Carvajal, who had been kidnapped by rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November.

During the meeting, an appeal for solidarity was made to the international community, in favor of Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela, three countries experiencing severe crises.

The bishops also supported the regional association agreements being promoted between regional entities of Latin America and the European Union.

The participants also expressed their disappointment over the failure of negotiations during the last meeting of the World Trade Organization on the exportation of generic medicines to poor countries. But they gave assurances of Church support for the next WTO meeting, in Cancun, Mexico.

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