European Bishops Gather in Rome to Discuss Marriage and the Family

Cardinal Erdo Opens Meeting By Observing Europeans’ Parodoxical Approach to Relationships

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Europeans have a contradictory view of marriage and the family: on the one hand cohabitation is on the rise, and on the other is a yearning for long-lasting relationships.

This was the observation of Cardinal Péter Erdő, president of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences  of Europe (CCEE) – a group comprising presidents of 33 European bishops’ conferences.

Opening the organisation’s annual plenary assembly in Rome yesterday, Cardinal Erdő said: “Above all our meeting aims to be a moment of reflection, on the eve of the world Synod on the family, on the questions and phenomena which impact most closely on the family today in Europe.

“In fact the European context presents many elements which are contradictory in themselves. We are faced with a paradox: if a good number of studies highlight an increasing decline in the number of couples who decide to get married and, at the same time, highlight the increase in young couples who instead prefer to live not very stable relationships of cohabitation, nevertheless the majority of Europeans yearn for a long-lasting relationship.

“Furthermore,” he continued, “while there is a tendency almost to proclaim the end of the ‘traditional’ family, the same research reveals the great importance which Europeans attribute to the family, one of the highest values in their scale of values (Source: European Values Study) and the privileged place for the education of children in the life of the society.

“All that points out well how in a Europe marked by a widespread and general ‘desire to escape’ from institutions, which is reflected therefore in marriage and the family, too, people are searching for a stable relationship. And so if the family is an institution and marriage such an important value why is there this dichotomy between the desire of so many Europeans and actual practice? And in such a situation, what is the Church, its pastors and all the faithful called to do?”

The meeting of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences in Europe, which runs until Sunday, will discuss the challenges facing the family today in Europe. Today, the CCEE will have its first ever meeting with Pope Francis.

The European bishops will also focus on the teaching and testimony of love for the family of the Saint whom Pope Francis called the ‘Pope of the Family’, that is Saint John Paul II; and they will examine the pastoral challenges linked to marriage also in the light of Canon Law. The talks will be introduced by expert facilitators such as: Prof. Joseph Weiler, President of the European University Institute (Fiesole); the couple Ludmila and Stanislaw Grygiel, Pontifical John Paul II Institute (Rome); and His Grace Mgr Stanislav Zvolenský, Archbishop of Bratislava.

During the meeting there will also be interventions from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences) and His Grace Mgr Gabriel Mbilingi, President of SECAM (Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar).

The complete programme for the meeting, list of participants and other documents are available at:

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