Message received by attendees of the
3rd Catholic-Orthodox European Forum
Lisbon, 5 to 8 June 2012
|1. The 3rd Catholic-Orthodox Forum entitled The Economic Crisis and Poverty. Challenges for Europe today was held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 5 to 8 June 2012. The forum was hosted by His Eminence the Patriarch of Lisbon José da Cruz Policarpo. The proceedings were co-chaired by Cardinal Péter Erdő, President of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe (CCEE) and by Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Following the positive experiences of the first two editions of the Catholic-Orthodox Forum (Trent, Italy, 11 to 14 December 2008 and Rhodes, Greece, 18 to 22 October 2010), the delegates of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe and of the Orthodox Churches in Europe discussed the issue of the economic crisis and its repercussions across Europe in the light of the Christian faith. |
At the close of this meeting, we wish to address our reflections to the Christians of our Churches and to all those sharing our concerns.
2. Current-day Europe is going through a most serious crisis.
Many Europeans feel the direct effects of this situation, specifically when taking the shape of unemployment and the lack of a future outlook or hope. All Europeans are concerned with regard to the future.
Our Churches are open to this suffering and concern, and aware of it. They wish to send out a message of trust and hope to their faithful and to all Europeans. We must maintain our trust in Divine Providence and in our ability to correct the mistakes of the past, and we have the responsibility to create the outlines for a future of justice and peace.
3. Throughout history Europe has known how to adjust the course of its destiny by drawing on the resources of Christian thought and morals coming from the Bible, the patristic and monastic tradition and the Social Doctrine of the Church, all of which represent a treasure the entirety of Her people share.
4. The message of the Churches is about the position and role of the human person in creation, in society and specifically in economic life.
The Christian Churches teach us that man finds his fullness in God, his Creator and Saviour. Nothing in this world alone can fulfil man. Through the assets of this world, he is called to discover the link which connects him to other men in communion with the Creator
5. As a consequence of the process of secularisation, many Europeans have distanced themselves from this constitutional connection with God and are seeking the meaning of life on a merely earthly horizon. Some ideologies of materialism and hedonism have propounded their own limited vision aimed at promoting the belief that happiness can be reached through the accumulation of wealth, that freedom consists in the satisfaction of all desires, and that societal life can derive from the alignment of all private interests.
6. The Churches observe that the crisis we are in is not only economic in nature. It is rather a crisis involving but not limited to the moral and cultural spheres, and appears as more anthropological and spiritual.
We have reached this point because finance has become detached from real economics. In turn, the economy is not governed by a political will, and politics is separated from ethics.
If we draw on our experience of the living presence of Christ in the Church, we believe that through a return to Christ and openness to the Holy Spirit and the Christian faith, today's men and women will be able to find an answer to their deepest aspirations.
7. Society must be organised in a way to always serve man rather than the contrary. Man is by his very nature a social being who comes to fullness first and foremost through the family. We reject the individualism which isolates persons by separating them from one another. Each person has their own destiny which is open to the infinite love of God, and must never be treated as an object to be manipulated by the interests of the most powerful. On their part, Christians are called to co-operate with all men and women of good will in order to construct a more just and human society.
8. If Europeans wish to come out if this crisis, in solidarity with the rest of humanity, they must understand that a shift in lifestyle is needed. For believers, this is about re-establishing a personal relationship with the Triune God, Who is communion of love. Such relationship must stretch beyond mere wisdom or ethical convictions. The crisis may become the opportunity for giving rise to a healthy sense of awareness. Europeans need to attribute meaning to economic actions from the perspective of a holistic and not partial vision of the human person and his dignity. By placing the person where he should be, and subordinating the economy to objectives of integral development in solidarity, directing culture towards the search for what is true, giving space to civil society and the ingenuity of citizens operating for the well-being of their contemporaries, they will create the conditions for the rise of a new type of relationship with money, production and consumption. All this is in fact what the Christian ascetic tradition points out in the practice of fasting and sharing. The Churches encourage Christians to co-ordinate their diaconal service at a local and global level in order to assist those living in precarious situations and to contribute to the development of a more just society.
9. In this inescapable shift, priority must be given to employment. It will be appropriate to privilege activities geared at generating jobs. Every person should be able to live in a dignified way and to realise their potential through work in solidarity with others. Any form of corruption or exploitation must be eliminated.
10. The market is not a blind and anonymous force. It is the place where useful commodities and services are exchanged in order to support the material, social and spiritual development of persons. The market must be regulated so as to foster the integral development of the human person.
11. It is no longer acceptable to waste the resources of creation and to pollute the environment we live in as we are doing now. The vocation of man is that of being a steward and not a predator of creation. In our times we need to be aware of what we owe future generations who should not inherit a degraded environment in which one cannot live.
In the globalised world we inhabit, the hand governing the life of peoples should not be the invisible coercion of individual and collective egoism, but the influence of a politics of control and transparency over the choices of the social players representing the various States.
12. We wish to address words of encouragement to national governments and to those in charge of the European institutions in their efforts aimed at identifying a more just and fairer path to overcome the economic and financial crisis, with special attention to the Countries who are undergoing the most hardship.
13. We appeal to the only agents able to bring about the evolution of our societies towards a new style of life, the citizens of European Countries. Where citizens understand the crucial need for a change of consumption patterns, their representatives in the various Parliaments will follow; industry will adapt its choices; and educational establishments will teach a new model of citizenship, displaying more sobriety and greater solidarity with the poor. Finally, European men and women will feel the joy of renewing their Christian roots and fostering the spiritual dimension of their being, which is the only way to fulfil every person's search for happiness and meaning.