BRUSSELS, Belgium, JULY 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Social inequalities are growing at an alarming rate in Europe, along with unemployment and other problems, the Holy See warned at the annual summit of religious leaders with institutions of the European Union.
The one-day meeting in Brussels gathered the presidents of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council, together with 24 bishops, chief rabbis, muftis and leaders from the Hindu and Sikh communities.
Flaminia Giovanelli, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stated in her presentation that the difference between rich and poor is increasingly great and scandalous, while the growth of unemployment is “worrying.”
She expressed a concern at the trend that shows how “rich and poor live next to one another: persons who have nothing, who are even lacking the essential, and persons who waste without moderation what others need desperately.”
According to the undersecretary for Justice and Peace, 85 million people in the European Union — 17% of the population — live under the threshold of poverty in the context of an economic crisis, “which is being revealed as a structural crisis of values, of trust.”
In addition to the above, she pointed out the worrying decrease of the population along with the increase in unemployment: “The lack of work is the first cause of social exclusion, and has already reached intolerable proportions. Intolerable not only because of the number of unemployed, [but also] because of the increase of poor workers.”
Giovanelli asserted that 8% of European workers do not have an adequate salary to ensure a fitting life for themselves and their families, and warned that the inequality between the countries “does not cease to increase.”
“The Catholic Church is on the side of the poor,” she concluded, and “raises its voice in their favor and promotes initiatives to help them surmount their situation.”
Also present at the meeting were Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), Bishop Adrianus van Luyn, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), and Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský of Bratislava.
Bishop van Luyn warned against using technical or administrative measures that convert the poor into “objects of welfare.” What he needed, he explained, “is a way of helping poor people that will allow them to be ‘players’ in the joint struggle with society against poverty and exclusion.”
Regarding the economic crisis, he said that “we can neither allow the poorest and the weakest in our society to become the victims of this crisis yet again, nor can we burden future generations with the task of cleaning up after our mistakes while failing to do anything ourselves.”
Cardinal Erdö, emphasized that poverty isn’t simply the lack of material goods, but that it involves all dimensions of the person. Therefore, he noted, addressing poverty necessarily involves addressing all the needs of a person.
Archbishop Zvolensky called for “a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity, beginning in the family” and urged the politicians to promote “not only family policies, but also those social policies which have the family as their principal object.”