CHISINAU, Moldova, MARCH 1, 2010 ( Though a minority status entails a special commitment to be "leaven in the dough," there is still a need for respect of minority rights, a group of prelates from southeastern Europe are recalling.

This was a conclusion of the 10th meeting of the presidents of the episcopal conferences of the southeastern European countries, which focused on the rights and duties of religious minorities. The four-day assembly concluded Sunday in Moldova.
Attending this meeting were representatives of six episcopal conferences (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania, the International Conference of Sts. Cyril and Methodius -- which embraces the bishops of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia -- and Turkey), in addition to the Maronite archbishop of Cyprus and the bishop of Chisinau.
Also present were the nuncio in Romania and Moldova, Archbishop Francisco-Javier Lozano, and the permanent observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe, Monsignor Aldo Giordano.

Work to do
According to the final communiqué, made public today, the bishops stressed that there is "still much to be done" on the issue of recognition of religious minorities.
Despite the fact that 20 years have gone by since the fall of the totalitarian regimes and the signing of concordats with the Holy See (except Turkey), there is still no full recognition of the rights of the Catholic minority, the prelates noted.

"The juridical instrument does not automatically mean justice and the protection of the rights of Catholic minorities," the bishops observed.

The communiqué stated, "Several communities are not even protected against the violation of human rights, especially rights linked to the liberty of religion and the institutional rights of the Churches."

The problem still lingers of properties nationalized under Communism, the prelates added, saying this issue involves not just Catholics, but other religious communities.

Vlad Filat, prime minister of Moldova, who attended the working sessions of the meeting, stressed the role that the Catholic minority must carry out in "the reconstruction of the social fabric and values" of the country.
Common good
The bishops affirmed that the Catholic Church, despite being a minority, "feels no less the duty to contribute to the common good and to the integral development of the societies in which it is present."
This contribution is especially marked in two areas: in charitable social service and in the Church's participation in debates on ethics.
"In some countries, the participation and intervention of the Church is often sought in topics of public debate, so that there can be debates on topics of an ethical nature," the communiqué noted. "The commitment of the Church at the service of the local peoples is only the statistical measure of its awareness of being a living part of the realms in which every day the priests, religious and laity use their own material and spiritual resources so that the nations' peoples can grow and rediscover, in solidarity with the whole Catholic world, reasons for great hope."

Responsible Christians
In the conclusions, the bishops stressed that the minority situation of Catholics constitutes "a challenge to live the faith in an ever more responsible way," attempting to "resolve the problem of religious identity and pluralism without giving up the truths of our faith, but making us capable of accepting all that is positive in the other religious creeds."
"The pluralist attitude does not make our convictions relative, but removes from them the venom of absolutism and intolerance," they stressed.
At the same time, to be a minority is a "commitment," the bishops suggested: "that of leaven in the dough. It is a question of transforming, of making grow, of fermenting, but from within, as witnesses and martyrs."
The next meeting will be March 3-6, 2011, in Cyprus, at the invitation of the Maronite archbishop of the island, Youssef Soueif.