Rooted in Christ. Strong in faith. Pastoral work with young people in South-east Europe.
11th Meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of South-east Europe - Nicosia, Cyprus, 3-6 March 2011
The eleventh meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of South-east Europe took place in Nicosia (Cyprus) from 3-6 March at the invitation of His Excellency Mgr Youssef Soueif, Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus. Seven Bishops’ Conferences were represented: Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Romania and the SS Cyril and Methodius International Conference, along with the diocese of Chisinau (Republic of Moldova). Also participating in the meeting were the Apostolic Nuncio to Cyprus, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, as well as a number of experts.
As an opportunity of preparation for the next XXVIth World Youth Day (Madrid, 16-21 August 2011), the basic theme chosen for this meeting was: “Rooted in Christ. Strong in faith. Youth pastoral work in South-east Europe”.
The meeting began, on 3 March, with welcomes from representatives of the different Christian Churches present in Cyprus, including His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal; the representative of His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus; and a welcome from the Maronite Patriarch.
The meeting was marked by various opportunities for prayer and meeting with the different local Catholic communities, with consecrated religious, and with young people. There was also an ecumenical dimension with a visit to Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos and communication with Metropolitan Isaias of Tamassou on the real situation of young Orthodox in Cyprus. In addition, the bishops also visited some of the Maronite villages in the north of the island as testimony to their solidarity with a Maronite community where, as happens with other Christian communities, too, the desire to return to the villages is a fundamental issue for the existence and future of the community.
In the course of the meeting, the participants met the President of the Republic of Cyprus, His Excellency Dimitris Christofias, to whom they expressed their hope that as soon as possible the people of Cyprus might be able to resolve their political problems peacefully and at last be united in one country, that refugees might be able to return to their lands, and places of worship be restored to their original function.
The meeting was also an opportunity to remember and entrust to the Lord’s mercy Bishop Luigi Padovese, the former President of the Turkish Bishops’ Conference who used to participate in these meetings, who was brutally murdered last June. The participants wanted to express their solidarity and communion with the Church in Turkey and with all suffering Churches.
The meeting ended on Sunday 6 March with the solemn celebration of Mass in the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Graces.
The thematic part of the meeting developed starting from the interventions of Don Eric Jacquinet, responsible for the Youth Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and of Don Francesco Pierpaoli, Director of the John Paul II Centre in Loreto. There were then reports from the individual Bishops’ Conferences.
At the end of their meeting and in the light of the numerous interventions, the participants wanted to address this urgent appeal to the young people of the countries of South-east Europe:
We want to encourage you.
Dear young Catholics, even if you are in a minority in your countries, do not be discouraged! You are in communion with millions of young Catholics throughout the world. World Youth Day in Madrid, for which some of you are geting ready to particpate in, will be a powerful and encouraging impetus for you all. You are not alone in believing and hoping in Christ. An immense sea of young people hope in Christ, love Christ and trust Christ.
We are aware of your problems.
Problems about destroyed families, finding stable employment, problems stemming from “the disappearance of the meaning of God” in the society in which you are called to live, problems due to the poor example of some adults. For many of you, there are difficulties stemming from living in a society which for decades has been dominated by totalitarian ideologies and the practical and theoretical atheism which still taint some souls…
We trust you.
Despite these problems we have immense trust in you, in your innate generosity, in your refusal to conform passively to the fashions of the times, in your sensitivity to the suffering of others, in your sense of justice, the search for peace, in hunger for the truth which characterises you. We know of your desire for inner calm and silence expressed in prolonged prayer. If all this is enhanced, it can be an immense force for the renewal of your communities. You can become the leaven which gives freshness to our tired and sometimes no longer motivated communities.
Create relations, be bridge-builders.
You live in multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies. You are called to witness to Christ’s invitation to spread love for all people, irrespective of religion or ideology. We know that for the Christian: “there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). You are called to forgive the wrongs that your forefathers have suffered, to overcome with the tenderness of Christ the tragic situations which marked the past. You are called to bring about that which, sometimes, the generation which preceded you was unable to: fraternal dialogue with your peers even those of a different religion or Christian denomination; collaboration for justice and peace. Today more than yesterday you have the capacity to understand other’s reasons. So, your testimony as Christians will also become your missionary commitment in a society where violence and hatred seem to characterise the culture of our time.
“Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith”.
The inspiring theme of the Madrid World Youth Day constitutes for us, too, your pastors, an urgent appeal: “Planted and built up in Christ”, means to root the whole of your life in the person of Christ. It is about the totality of life and not the partiality of our experiences; it is about the real foundations on which the whole of the life of humanity is based; it is a vision, a choice, an attitude, a life plan, a way of life. The baptised person is called to see in his or her baptism a sign of the person’s belonging to Christ. Here one lives the encounter with Christ the young person who calls young people to follow him and become his disciples and the prophets of his gospel in today’s world.
May the Virgin, the Theotokos, the Holy Apostles the founders of this Church in Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas and Saint Maron, the Father of the Maronite Church, protect you and intercede for all our young people.
At the end of the meeting, the participants expressed their gratitude to His Excellency Mgr Youssef Soueif and his collaborators for the excellent hospitality offered over these few days.
For further information:
Thierry Bonaventura, CCEE Media Officer
Tel: +41-71-227 60 40 - Mobile: +41-78-851 60 40 - thierry.bonaventuraccee.ch
Tel +357 / 25 / 156 622 - telesforacytanet.com.cy
The Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) gathers the Presidents of the current 33 European Bishops’ Conferences of this continent, represented by their Presidents, and the Archbishops of Luxembourg, the Principality of Monaco, and the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, as well as the Bishop of Chişinău (Republic of Moldova). The President is Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary; the Vice-presidents are Cardinal Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb, and Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux. The CCEE General Secretary is Fr Duarte da Cunha. The headquarters of the Secretariat is in St Gallen (Switzerland)