Bishops of COMECE at their Autumn Assembly in Brussels

Bishops urge EU to take “ambitious steps” on development, climate, human rights

“Here in Europe we have a lifestyle that our planet can no longer sustain”, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich has warned.

Driving the news

Hollerich was speaking at the conclusion Friday of the Autumn Plenary Assembly of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, in Brussels.

The President of COMECE and Archbishop of Luxembourg gave the example of his own country as a lesson in how European consumerism has spiralled out of control.

“If everyone had the same standard of living as the Luxembourgers, even the resources of four or five planets would not suffice”, Hollerich denounced.

“But we only have one planet and everyone has the right to live in this world. Therefore, we need to change our way of life”.

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Hollerich explained that consumerism has led to two phenomena that stand out as highly worrying with respect to the future: climate change and globalisation.

“We’re only at the beginning” of forced climate migration, the cardinal warned, adding that the transformations forced upon the world by global warming will only intensify from here on in.

“It is high time to change our lifestyles”, Hollerich insisted, explaining that “climate change is a major challenge affecting the poor, the weakest in particular”.

“We should also identify ethical rules for sustainable development”, he said.

“Globalisation – which in itself is a positive phenomenon – contains aspects of unbridled capitalism that must be absolutely reviewed”.

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Why it matters

Hollerich expressed his satisfaction that the new European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen seems to be taking seriously the challenges of climate change and ecological conversion.

The cardinal said von der Leyen’s “Green New Deal” that seeks to make Europe carbon-neutral by 2050 is “a very ambitious project”, but one that is “necessary to preserve life on our planet”.

“When I talk about life, I refer to young people who have the right to live happily, to have a future like we have had”, Hollerich explained.

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But the cardinal also said the new European Parliament elected in May must also face the challenge of really connecting with European citizens and with the problems that they have in their daily lives, and must make policy “for the weakest, the poorest”.

” In Europe we see a fear of the elites”, Hollerich admitted.

” I have nothing against the elites because societies need them too.

“But these elites must be fully dedicated to service. This means knowing what people think, what they experience every day.

“The problem is not the eliteS, but their distance from people’s lives. Therefore, I encourage policies that fully respect the dignity of every human person, that are not based on the interests of the few who are rich”, Hollerich said.

In the context of this disconnect between the elites and ordinary European citizens, the cardinal repeated his concerns over the rise of populism on the continent.

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“I’ve said many times that populism is my main concern”, Hollerich acknowledged.

” I am not referring to Hungary or Poland. I am more worried about political parties that also in our countries are rooted in fascist or Nazi ideology.

“We must never stop saying that those ideas have already led Europe into catastrophe. I cannot understand how people could vote for those parties again”, the cardinal admitted.

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For the record

At the end of their Autumn Assembly, the COMECE Bishops called for “ecological policies centered on persons, families and communities” and that “foster integral human development”, according to a press release.

In line with the Sustainable Development Goals and in light of the ongoing Synod on the Amazon region, the COMECE Bishops also called on the EU “to take ambitious steps to ensure policy coherence between its trade, development, climate and human rights policies”.

Other issues on the table for the EU prelates in their Assembly included the need for “binding and effective” human rights legislation for EU-based multinationals “to ensure compliance of their actions throughout the entire supply chain with legal, social and environmental standards”.

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The delegates of the EU episcopates also expressed “concern” over the current situation in Syria, and encouraged the EU “to intensify its humanitarian and diplomatic efforts” in order “lasting and sustainable peace” to the region.

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