By Junno Arocho

NICOSIA, Cyprus, SEPT. 4, 2012 ( Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin addressed the European Bishops Conference (CCEE) Commission, "Caritas in Veritate" in Cyprus. The commission is comprised of bishops and delegates from the conference who are responsible for social issues. 

The focus of their three-day meeting was on the current economic crisis in Europe and its strain on the social cohesion of the continent. 

The Irish prelate began his address, titled "From Crisis to Hope", explaining the current economic situation in his native Ireland, which went from a time of economic prosperity to financial hardship. 

"Ireland has its own problems for which Ireland must take responsibility. These are problems are exacerbated by the complex situation in Europe. The end result is that Ireland, like many other countries, has had to rely on a bail-out from the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank and the cost of that bail-out and the economic reform programs fall above all on the weakest and the most fragile," he said. 

The current situation, according to Archbishop Martin, has caused a mass exodus of young people looking for work in other countries. He emphasized the need for change in society while citing the Catholic Social Doctrine of the church as blueprint to adapt to the situation in Europe. The Archbishop of Dublin stated however that the Social Doctrine of the Church is "not like a political platform which can or should enter into details of economic policy which go beyond those basic moral principles."

"Every Christian enjoys legitimate autonomy and indeed also responsibility and obligation to grapple with how those basic principles of the social teaching can best be applied in their daily commitment in society. In that sense, we have to speak of the Church, not just in terms of Bishops and Church organizations, but also in terms of the calling of lay men and women in their Christian responsibility in family, in their professional and cultural and political responsibilities," he said. 

Archbishop Martin stressed that the CCEE's "Caritas in Veritate" commission should take on a more decisive role in providing programs of formation for the Christian community that can assist in illustrating applications of the Church teaching in complex situations, which would "enable Christians in our local Churches to be critically active in society."

Another challenge to social cohesion, according to Archbishop Martin, was a crisis of education, saying that current financial situation would "lead to further undermining of the value of a broad sense of education in favor of narrow utilitarianism." He emphasized the need to "defend and illustrate" the significance of faith in society. 

"When faith and Catholic culture are under attack it is important to defend the values that derive from faith and their relevance to society. Today we are often in a situation in which we have to defend Catholic teaching within a cultural framework which is not of our creation and indeed may be hostile to our thought. This is especially the case when a culture becomes dominated by individualism," he said. 

Archbishop Martin concluded his address saying that the Gospel must be preached courageously in confronting the current crisis. "Resignation and keeping things ticking over will never renew the Church. But we must also come out of crises looking in the right direction, not entrapped in the negatives of today, or indeed in the empty promises of the ideologies of the day, but more capable of giving an account of the hope that is in us," he said.