The Secretary General of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) has urged the EU to rethink the common European project in the wake of Brexit.

Driving the news

Brexit “is certainly no good news”, Monsignor Stefano Russo told SIR in an interview January 7.

“The long road to European unity has brought peace to our peoples, acting as a necessary backdrop for decades of democracy, rights and economic and social growth. If this unity collapses, it means that something went wrong.

“The British people’s decision to leave the European Union is legitimate and must be respected: looking ahead we need to build a new partnership, one that sees the EU and the UK close and cooperative for the good of their peoples”, Russo explained.

However, for that “new partnership” to emerge, the Italian prelate urged Brussels and EU member states to see Brexit “as a signal calling for national rethinking”.

“Perhaps it is time to consider whether reforms are needed to make EU institutions more efficient and democratic, and to bring the citizens closer to the great project of European unity”, Russo hinted.

Go deeper

The CEI Secretary General also referred in his interview with SIR to the turbulent political year just passed in Italy, and expressed his desire that 2020 will usher in “a reversal in the climate of general mistrust towards national institutions”.

Russo also explained the thinking behind the meeting of reflection and spirituality in Bari from 19 to 23 February with all the Churches bordering the Mediterranean, which Pope Francis confirmed January 7 he will attend.

“It will be a workshop of synodality, as a way of life expressed in mutual esteem, gratitude, and care for relationships”, the CEI Secretary said.

“The Mediterranean Church is present and active, rich in liturgical, spiritual and ecclesiological traditions. Today we have the possibility of strengthening existing structures for communion and perhaps inventing new ones”.

On the growing ecological conscience of the Italian Church, but especially that of the younger generations all over the world, Russo recalled that “the environmental crisis requires a far-reaching, integral approach that includes the human and social dimensions”.

Why it matters

On the political, social and religious tensions on the rise around the world – most dramatically revealed in Italy recently in an anti-Semitic attack on a politician in Venice on New Year’s Eve – Russo observed that “any person with common sense and openness towards others cannot but be concerned about the escalation of all forms of hatred”.

“The sequence of such tragic events is destroying the very sense of humanity. This is not about religious beliefs. What is being questioned is the concept of humanity. Who are you to me? Who is my brother? At a deeper level, who am I?”, the Italian prelate explained.

“Underestimating hate speech and all forms of viciousness, more or less hidden, is what worries me”, the CEI Secretary admitted.

“I’m worried about the evil that is spreading in our societies. I am concerned about the wounds and tears caused by every attack. These are never-ending tragedies which perhaps are not sufficiently acknowledged.

“The momentary shock fades away, the worry remains. Maybe, the time has come for a large-scale global movement to eradicate all forms of hatred”, Russo suggested.

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