European Bishops in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

European Bishops lament “fragility” of Church on continent “in distress”

Bishops from 45 countries around Europe have issued a call to a continent “in distress”, urging it to remember that in its “different histories and traditions, in the old and new challenges, there are elements of hope”.

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The Bishops of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) issued the plea from the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela after a four-day plenary assembly.

Lamenting their “limitations” and “many weaknesses” that “cause suffering to the whole Church”, the bishops said they laid their “afflictions and petitions” on the shoulders of the Apostle St. James, who is buried in Santiago.

That gesture was “to ask forgiveness for our errors and commit ourselves with hope and confidence for the future”, the bishops said.

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In their message from the westernmost tip of Europe, the bishops of the CCEE thanked Pope Francis “for the solicitude with which he tirelessly shows us the ways to take”, and for the emphasis in his pontificate on geographical and existential “peripheries”.

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Reflecting on the theme of the assembly – ” Europe, time to awaken? The signs of Hope” – the bishops said Europe today is marked by a series of different “contradictions”:

  • the desire for God, but at the same time the fragility of the Christian life;
  • the desire for lives based on the Gospel, but at the same time ecclesial and human weakness;
  • the desire for holiness, but at the same time without witness of life;
  • the desire for universal human rights, but at the same time the loss of respect for human dignity;
  • the desire for harmony in society and with creation, but also the loss of any sense of objective truth;
  • the desire for lasting happiness, but also the loss of a shared sense of the destiny to which humanity is called;
  • the desire for inner peace and consistency expressed in a spiritual search, but also the denial of that search in many public discourses.

In the face of these contradictions, the CCEE bishops expressed their desire “to give a message of hope to Europe in distress and say forcefully: Wake up, Europe!”

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“Rediscover your roots, Europe! Contemplate the many examples of this fulfilled hope, beginning with our holy Patrons: Benedict of Nursia, Cyril and Methodius, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. They are signs of a Europe united in diversity”, the bishops said.

But Europe’s hope today is not only in the saints of the past, they added, but also in “the countless examples of holiness present along the roads of our time and which we often encounter in our daily lives”.

Especially in the “hidden saints” who daily “contribute in silence to the construction of a more just and humane civil society”, the bishops said.

Why it matters

The CCEE bishops concluded their message echoing Pope Francis’ call “for a new European humanism, capable of dialogue, integration and generation”.

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Quoting the pontiff, the bishops encouraged citizens to protect “what is dearest to the continent’s tradition: the defence of human life and dignity, the promotion of the family and respect for the fundamental rights of the person”.

“Through this commitment, Europe will be able to grow as a family of peoples, a land of peace and hope”, the CCEE bishops affirmed.

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