The presidency of the Council of Bishops Conferences of Europe (CCEE) met with journalists to discuss their recent meeting with Pope Francis. The Holy Father met with the prelates after his historic meeting with Coptic Pope Tawadros II.
CCEE President Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Primate of Hungary, told journalists that the Holy Father listened with interest as they presented the activities and programs in the coming year.
Among the programs will be an upcoming seminar that will highlight the 1700th Anniversary of Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan, which ended the persecutions of Christians. The seminar, which was organized by the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as the CCEE, will discuss the theme of “Religious Freedom Today”. His Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will open the seminar. Various speakers from the Jewish, Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic, and Muslim communities will give various perspectives on religious freedom.
Religious Freedom, Cardinal Erdő noted, “is a significant theme, so much so that we will dedicate our upcoming Plenary Assembly that will take place in Bratislava in October.” The theme of the CCEE’s Plenary Assembly will be “God and the State: Europe in the Midst of Secularity and Secularism.”
The president of the CCEE highlighted christianophobia in Europe, the Middle East and across the world, saying that recent reports from the European Observatory have observed a growing trend of discrimination against Christians.
Cardinal Erdő stated that they have expressed their solidarity with Christians in the Middle East. Recently, the CCEE sent a letter to the Coptic Pope Tawadros II conveying their closeness to the Coptic Church regarding attacks against Christians in Egypt. Also mentioned was the current situation in Syria, where the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Metropolitans of Aleppo were abducted.
“We hope that we can find a solution through dialogue not only for them but also for the inhumane conditions in the country. Of course, all Christians are praying for peace in the region. We consider the kidnappings as a provocation and we can only give words of hope to those suffering,” Cardinal Erdő said.
One of Us Campaign
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genova and CCEE Vice President also highlighted an important initiative supported by the CCEE: the One of Us Campaign.
The citizen’s initiative seeks juridical protection for human life and of the integrity of every human being from conception.” The campaign has spread across Europe collecting thousands of signatures calling for legislation in protecting the unborn. On Sunday, May 12th the campaign will collect signatures all across Rome.
“This is a concrete and positive gesture so that Europe’s conscience doesn’t lose itself in respect to the fundamental values in recognizing the defense and promotion of human life in all its forms and phases,” Cardinal Bagnasco said. “We support this initiative; this is a response from not only Christians, but of Europeans as well.”
In Poland, the campaign has grown exponentially since its beginnings. According to CCEE Vice President Archbishop Józef Michalik of Przemyśl, Poland, many youth have participated actively in collecting signatures for the campaign.
What is most interesting about this campaign is that is promoted by the lay faithful. We, of course, are supporters of this campaign but we are not the initiators. It is wonderful to see the awakening on the part of the human conscience in this campaign,” Archbishop Michalik said.
The lay faithful, he continued, were able to collect over 600,000 signatures for the One of Us campaign without any direct help. “This is especially a positive sign for all of Europe,” he said.
Cardinal Basgnasco also highlighted the role that youth are playing in the campaign. “The youth, are much more free than the adults. They are free of ideological schemes, of past diatribes, and thus more willing to see the truth of things, even to change or modify their opinions,” Cardinal Basgnasco said.
“This is an important fact, its a great promise for all of Europe.”