Sunday, February 10, 2013

European bishops on the importance of fostering a sense of belonging

The challenges European Churches were set by new religious movements that do not form part of the main current of ancient Christian Churches is a topic that had already been addressed 10 years ago in the Cartha Oecumenica (2001). 

It was also the theme of the joint meeting between the CCEE and the CEC that concluded in Warsaw. Although Christian Churches are still the majority by far, groups calling themselves Independent Marginal Christian are also growing fast.

In their concluding communiqué, participants placed special emphasis on their willingness to listen: from scientific data on these movements to the consideration of factors that lead people to join them. 

Both the CCEE and the CEC expressed their concern about the situation regarding migrants who are arriving in Europe and opting to join other religious circles because they do not feel comfortable in traditional Christian communities.

In an interview with Italian Religious Information Service SIR, the Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Cardinal Péter Erdő, who is also President of the CCEE, explained that in this whole secularisation process Europe is going through, there is a clear need for religion and there are movements that have their own ways of responding to this need. 

These movements often differ significantly and are made up mostly of Pentecostal and Evangelical groups. There are countries, in Eastern Europe for example, where some of these denominations try to win people over by offering them jobs and accommodation. 

People accept this but in exchange they then have to pay a significant portion of their salary back to these groups in the form of donations.

Hence why Cardinal Erdő was a little shocked at their “success” which may not be linked exclusively to the need of God, but rather, to a more immediate need to feel good, to have an extraordinary spiritual experience or to simply have a different experience from that of traditional religion. And yet the Warsaw meeting concluded that faith is firmly linked to the figure of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a philosophical or emotional religion but a religion that depends historically on the Revelation.”

In his report, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, spoke of “contained penetration” when describing the effect of the phenomenon in Italy, a phenomenon which needs to be constantly monitored and one we should not be indifferent to because – as the cardinal told SIR Europe – it is proof of an evident need to be more welcoming to people, to make them feel they belong and to show the joyous and sharing side of faith.

The Warsaw meeting also took into account the wider global context of this phenomenon as well as the cultural pluralism of today’s society which has lead to more fluid religious affiliations (the Synod on the New Evangelisation also discussed the switching between religions). 


Participants did not neglect to discuss the increasingly important role social networks play in influencing people’s sense of belonging and personal relations.

The communiqué concluded with a prayer for the unstable situation faced by the populations of the Middle East and North Africa, while the CEC issued a reminder about the 14th General Assembly which is due to take place in Budapest between 3 and 8 July on the theme “And now what are you waiting for? CEC and its Mission in a Changing Europe”. 

The next joint Committee meeting will take place from 17 to 19 February 2014 but the location has not yet been confirmed.

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