European Bishops Focus on Poverty

Reiterate Root Causes of Economic Crisis

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, APRIL 15, 2010 ( A group of European bishops’ representatives are focusing their plenary assembly on the tragedy of poverty in Europe, noting that some 79 million people live below the poverty line on this continent.

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) opened its spring Plenary Assembly on Wednesday with a report by its president, Bishop Adrianus van Luyn of Rotterdam.

The main topic of the assembly, attended by the 21 member bishops, is «2010: European Year to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion.»

The president’s address touched on a number of themes, including dialogue between the European Union and religious communities, and disappointment with the results of the summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

In regard to the year to combat poverty, the bishop said that «the social security systems within the European Union are among the most advanced in the world. And yet, many Europeans still live below the poverty line.»

The causes are very complex but the figures speak for themselves, he added: 79 million people live below the poverty line (60% of the average income of the country in which the person lives), in other words, 16% of Europeans.

Bishop van Luyn noted that one European out of 10 lives in a home where no one works, and the economic crisis has caused a rise in unemployment throughout the continent.

In the majority of the member countries, children, more than adults, are exposed to the risk of poverty. Nearly 20% of children are threatened by poverty, in other words, 19 million people.

The bishop affirmed that a joint document from various Church organizations will elaborate on the phenomenon and propose concrete policies to combat it.

Giving advice
On the economic and financial crisis, and after recalling the Greek crisis and its repercussions in Europe, Bishop van Luyn said that one might ask if the bishops can give some advice to the E.U., given «the critical situation in which it finds itself.» He acknowledged that the bishops are not experts in economy, but that «we must make a contribution that leaves aside the technical aspects to overcome the crisis, to concentrate on more fundamental points.»
«From the social doctrine of the Church, we cannot come to a conclusion other than this: the source of the crisis must be sought in a mistaken ordering of values,» the prelate said. «If those who are concerned with the common good are not taken into consideration, but rather those who seek their individual interests, then the moral ordering has no meaning. It is the moment to pose again questions of meaning: the question of why and for what end, the question of the meaning of ethics, of just conduct.»
The crisis, he added, «presents to us the challenge of changing our models […] so that we concentrate on the essential; to persist on human dignity and the common good for our generation and future» generations.
COMECE’s president called for rediscovering correct balances: «The balance between understanding man, on one hand, as a free individual and, on the other, as person, namely, as a relational, interdependent being living in relation.
«The balance between functional relations — linked to the question ‘what is most useful for me’ — and fundamental relations. […]

«Reconciliation between legitimate individual interests and the interest of all, that is, the common good.»
«The tension between legality — what is permitted by law — and justice. What is legal, namely, juridically permitted, is not necessarily just, that is, justified on the level of justice and morality.»
COMECE’s president concluded by proposing a letter to the Holy Father, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his election, to express «our best wishes as well as our gratitude for his tireless contribution to a Christian Europe.»

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