THE NEW EVANGELISATION IS ALREADY UNDERWAY !
News Release at the end of the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) - Tirana, Albania, 29 September – 2 October 2011
The Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe met this year in Tirana, Albania, at the invitation of Mgr Rrok Mirdita, Metropolitan Archbishop of Tirana-Durrës, for their annual Plenary Assembly from 29 September – 2 October 2011. In the course of their meeting, the Presidents decided on the following resolutions:
- Election of the new CCEE Presidency. The Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe elected the new CCEE Presidency for the five-year period 2011-2016. Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary and President of the Hungarian Bishops’ Conference, was re-confirmed for a second mandate as President, while to the roles of Vice-presidents were elected Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, and Mgr Józef Michalik, Archbishop of Przemyśl and President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. So the two Vice-presidents replace Cardinals Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux, and Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb. The Plenary Assembly thanked the newly-elected Vice-presidents for their willingness to serve and wished them a period of profitable work in the service of evangelisation and the Church in Europe, At the same time, the participants thanked the members of the outgoing Presidency for the work they have undertaken for the good of the Church and for their dedication in promoting fraternal communion between the European episcopates.
- New member of CCEE. The CCEE Plenary Assembly acceded to the request of His Lordship Mgr Milan Šašik, Eparchial Bishop of Mukachevo (or Mukačeve) for Byzantine Rite Ruthenians, to become a member of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, in accordance with the formula proposed by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Therefore CCEE is now composed of the Presidents of the 33 Bishops’ Conferences present in Europe and the Archbishops of Luxembourg, of the Principality of Monaco, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, the Bishop of Chişinău (Republic of Moldova) and the Eparchial Bishop of Mukachevo. Also participating are the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Kazakhstan and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem with the status of permanent invitees.
The Eparchy of Mukachevo (or Mukačeve) is under the jurisdiction of the Ruthenian “sui iuris” Church. Through the 1646 Union of Užhorod, the Ruthenian Church was united with the Catholic Church. The Ruthenian Church is immediately subject to the Holy See
- 2012 Plenary Assembly. The 2012 Plenary Assembly will take place at St Gallen in Switzerland from 27-30 September 2012 to mark the 1,400th anniversary of the arrival in St Gallen of the Irish monk of that name who founded there a cell and a hospice as the basis of the birth of the monastic movement around whch the current city developed. From the end of the 1970s, the CCEE Secretariat has been based in fact in the city of St Gallen.
Messagge of Pope Benedict XVI In a message from the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, addressed to Cardinal Péter Erdő, President of CCEE, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the European bishops to "identify with missionary courage new paths of evangelisation especially at the service of the new generations" and "encourages [them] to continue the work of this valuable structure of liaison between the European episcopates [CCEE] which for forty years has been promoting worthwhile collaboration in pastoral and ecumenical activity”. The participants wished to respond to the Pope’s kind gesture by in turn sending a letter testifying to their profound communion with the successor Peter.
Meeting with the Albanian political authorities. The impotance given by the local authorities to the CCEE Assembly was amply demonstrated not just by the attendance at the closing Mass of the Assembly by the President of the Parliament, Ms Jozefina Topalli, but also by the participation at the opening session by the Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, and by the audience granted to the participants by the President of the Republic of Albania, Bamir Topi. Both the Albanian leaders focused on the important contribution made to the Albanian nation by the Catholic Church down the centuries, especially in the preservation of territorial integrity and national identity, the cultivation of language and culture, the re-organisation of the institutes of public education, in the daily struggle against poverty and misery and in many other areas, and stressing the importance of the Church together with the other religions in preserving, also in time of persecution, the spiritual values and the reference to God. For his part, the CCEE President, Cardinal Péter Erdő, on a number of occasions in his address expressed his appreciation in noting the good relations existing between the Catholic Church and the Albanian State, as well as his joy at the vitality of the local community which has greatly developed in the last twenty years, and he addressed to the President of the Republic the desire that “the various issues, concerning church property confiscated at the time of Communism, may be resolved, as in other countries of Eastern Europe, in a way that allows the Church to develop her mission, in caring for the spiritual good and works of charity and assistance for the poorest”.
Meeting with the country’s religious leaders. In the course of the meeting, His Excellency Selim Muça, leader of the Muslim community, His Beatitude Anastas Janullatos, Archbishop of Durrës, Tirana and the whole of Albania, His Excellency Edmond Brahimaj, leader of the Bektashi community, and Rev Fitor Muça, President of the Evaneglical Fraternity of Albania, were invited to lunch with the members of the Plenary Assembly. The meeting took place in a climate of great friendliness, testimony to the good relations which exist between the various religious communities in the country.
As regards the issues tackled in the course of the Plenary Assembly:
The New Evangelisation. At the end of their reflection, the participants in the Assembly approved the following text.
The 41st CCEE Plenary Assembly was held in Tirana on the theme of the New Evangelisation. Preparation for this meeting included a major survey: each Bishops’ Conference had responded to a questionnaire, a summary of which was presented to the participants.
From this it emerged that the New Evangelisation is a major concern for European bishops, and that consequently all kinds of work has already taken place: diocesan synods and reflection at the level of Bishops’ Conferences, the publication of documents (in almost every country), and many practical projects.
Evangelisation is the manifestation of the Church’s life and vitality. It should not be understood simply as a pastoral activity, but as the manifestation of its very nature and mission. The New Evangelisation is not only aimed at Christians who have strayed from the faith, but at all. It seeks to proclaim Christ, true God and true man, crucified to bear every human grief, raised from the dead that we might have life. Through their baptism, all believers are called to take part in the New Evangelisation: families; young people who are generally the most open to being missionaries; but also parishes, the movements, and new communities. Places of catechesis and Catholic schools must also be and become ever more places of evangelisation. Finally, the sacraments are the privileged place of establishing this New Evangelisation. There is also question of seeking new ways to evangelise, such as, for example, new technology, the internet, and social networking sites. But all this is only possible if, following the example of the Christians of the Acts of the Apostles, we open ourselves up in a new way to the Holy Spirit: “There will be no new evangelisation without a new Pentecost!”.
The choice of Albania, land of martyrs, was particularly significant for the discussion of the theme of the new evangelisation. It was an opportunity for all bishops present to recall the missionary witness borne by the Albanian Church, and also by all the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches under communist regimes.
Mgr Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, addressed the meeting. He pointed out that many Europeans today no longer know anything about Christianity, and that while the word “crisis” was currently being much used, this should also be seen as an opportunity for growth. According to him, “the New Evangelisation is an opportunity given to us to read and interpret the current historical moment in order that the Church’s work might become extraordinary. In other words, we are called to live, in an extraordinary way, the ordinary event in the life of the Church, which is evangelisation.” He concluded by recalling the initiatives of the “Missions Metropoli”, which will take place in 12 major European cities during next Lent.
CCEE’s past activites. In the course of the meeting reports were presented about the activities of the various CCEE Commissions: CEEM (European Episcopal Commission for Media); the “Caritas in Veritate” Commission; the “Catechesis, school and university” Commission; and the European Vocations Service (EVS). The outcomes were also presented of the 11th meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of South-east Europe and the 13th meeting of the Bishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.
Future CCEE activities. There was discussion about the preparations for some events scheduled for the final months of 2011, and for 2012 and 2013. In particular, for the coming months the following were highlighted: the meeting to mark the 40th anniversary of CCEE (1971-2011) on 22 November in Rome, where there will be interventions from, inter alia, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone; Mgr Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation; the philosopher Rémi Brague; and Honourable Luca Volonté, President of the Group of the European People’s Party and Christian Democrats (EPP-CC) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; and the 14th meeting of the Bishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches which will take place in Oradea, Romania, from 3-6 November 2011 on the theme Evangelisation in the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in Europe. Amongst the events for 2012: the 12th meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of South-east Europe (Strasbourg, March 2012); the Catechectical Congress (Rome, 7-10 May 2012) on the theme of Christian initiation; the meeting of people from the Bishops’ Conferences with national responsibilities for “social issues” (Trieste, 3-5 September 2012); the 2nd European Social Days planned along with ComECE and scheduled for 2013 in Granada (Spain). The Plenary Assembly also decided to establish a working group which will have the task of setting up a new CCEE commission specifically on priestly vocations.
In the context of CCEE’s service to the Church in Europe there was also a presentation about Eurocathinfo.eu, the Institutional Information Portal and Intranet of Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences (online by the end of the year).
In Tirana, participants also received reports about two forthcoming world events which underline key aspects of the mission of the Catholic Church and which will take place in Europe: the World Meeting of Families (Milan, Italy, 30 May-2 June 2012) and the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (Dublin, 10-17 June 2012).
Ecumenism. In the field of ecumenical dialogue, participants were up-dated about the work of the Joint CCEE-CEC (Conference of European Churches) Committee and the Second European Catholic-Orthodox Forum (Rhodes, 18-22 October 2010). A third European Catholic-Orthodox Forum will take place at Lisbon, Portugal, 4-7 June 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Visits in Europe. During the Assembly, the Presidents received brief reports on recent Apostolic Visits undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI, in particular: on the visit to Croatia (4-5 June); World Youth Day (Madrid, 16-21 August); and on the visit to Germany (22-25 September). The Bishops’ Conferences involved in these visits all agreed that they constitute opportunities for great ecclesial unity and strong witness of the Pope, as teacher and successor of the apostles. The local faithful always welcomed the words of the Pope with great enthusiasm, attention and interiority, words which were not only addressed to the faithful of the country, but to the whole Europe. Meetings with civil authorities and representatives of other religions have also shown themselves to be events of great fraternity.
Christians in the Holy Land. The Plenary Assembly expressed a certain concern at the testimony of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, who spoke about the difficult situation in which the Christian communities in the Holy Land are living. To stop the exodus of Christians who are fleeing situations of uncertainty and misery, it is necessary for the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe to continue in their commitment to make their own faithful aware in order to support the Christians in the Holy Land through promotion of pilgrimages, too.
Relations between the European institutions and the Church. Dialogue with the European Union was introduced by Mgr André Dupuy, Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union; by Mgr Adrianus van Luyn, ComECE President; and by Mgr Piotr Mazurkiewicz, ComECE General Secretary. Dialogue with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg was presented instead by Mgr Aldo Giordano, Permanent Observer at the Council of Europe. Emerging clearly from their reports is the Church’s desire to accompany the work of the European institutions through precise and continued work marked by dialogue.
Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe. The work of the Observatory was presented, work which testifies to a growing recurrence of cases of discrimination and intolerance against Christians in Europe, too. The Bishops’ Conferences were invited to support the work of the Observatory, especially in verifying the objectivity of cases which reach the Observatory and finding, once the veracity of them is proven, appropriate ways of informing the local authorities about what is happening, thereby following the indications which have emerged in various OSCE resolutions.
Also participating in the Assembly were Mgr Dimas Lara Barbosa, Metropolitan Archbishop of Campo Grande (Brasil) and second Vice-president of CELAM (Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano); and Mgr Simon Ntamwana, Archbishop of Gitega and SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) delegate. Collaboration with SECAM will receive concrete expression next year in the Symposium of African and European Bishops (Rome, 13-17 February 2012) on the theme Pastoral Solidarity in a globalised world.
At the end of the work, the Presidents of Europe’s Bishops Conferences thanked: Mgr Rrok Mirdita and his collaborators for the warm reception; Mgr Ramiro Moliner Inglés, Apostolic Nuncio to Albania; and finally Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who followed the work of the Assembly. The work took place in a cordial and friendly atmosphere, enriched by moments of prayer and the daily celebration of Mass with the local community. A particular intensive moment was the meeting with the Franciscan Sr Maria Kaleta, who at the end of the meeting spoke of her Christian witness under the Communist regime.
To the Council of the Bishops´ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) belong, as members, the current 33 European Bishops’ Conferences of this Continent, represented by right by their Presidents, and the Archbishops of Luxembourg, of the Principality of Monaco, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus and the Bishop of Chişinău (Moldova Rep.) and the Eparchial Bishop of Mukachevo. The President is Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary; the Vice-Presidents are Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, and Mgr Józef Michalik, Archbishop of Przemyśl. The General Secretary is Mgr. Duarte da Cunha. The Secretariat is based at St Gallen (Switzerland).
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