Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reinhard Marx is the new president of the EU bishops

He was elected on the final day of the Plenary Assembly held in Brussels March 21 to 23 and which saw the transfer of power by the Bishop emeritus of Rotterdam, Adrianus van Luyin .

Reinhard Marx, 58, studied moral theology in Münster - but always with an emphasis on social doctrine - from 2001 to 2006 was Archbishop of Trier and since 2007 has been at the diocese of Munich and Freising (which was Joseph Ratzinger's position from '77 to '81), secretary and spokesman of the German Bishops' Conference, a delegate at the European Commission (COMECE) since 2006 where he was vice-president and leader of the Social Affairs Committee since 2009, made cardinal in 2010, a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, one of the collaborators on the Pope's social encyclicals, and since last Friday he is the new President of the Bishops’ Commission accredited at the European Union.
He was elected on the final day of the Plenary Assembly held in Brussels March 21 to 23 and which saw the transfer of power by the Bishop emeritus of Rotterdam, Adrianus van Luyin

Cardinal Marx will be joined by four vice-presidents and among them is the Italian delegate, Gianni Ambrosio, bishop of Piacenza-Bobbio - sociologist of religion with studies at the Sorbonne in Paris - who will work with Virgil Bercea, Bishop of Oradea Mare (Romania), Piotr Jarecki, Auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw and Jean Kockerols, Auxiliary Bishop of Mechelen-Brussels.
Known for his dynamism and activities - not only pastoral, but also in terms of diversified meetings and interventions in the media and for that text of his addressed to his "namesake" Karl - Marx was recently also the inspiration behind the joint declaration of the bishops published in January For a Europe of solidarity and responsibility and it is on this theme that he gave his first speech as president: "As regards the economic and financial crisis that is affecting our continent, I am firmly convinced that the European Union has the power and potential to overcome this situation. A global crisis requires a joint response. We need everyone to rediscover the sense of responsibility and solidarity. This is the prerequisite for being able to find a solution to common problems. We are at a decisive moment for the future of Europe".

"Europe has already faced many crises in its long history and the present one may not be the last. Yet Europe possesses in itself the strength and hope to overcome the difficult times. Indeed, Europe is a continent of hope", he said in the final press conference. 

"We need to identify and support those great ideals which have become the backbone of European history, to direct us toward the future. Among these there are the teachings of the Gospel, which is at the heart of European development."

And on the in no way marginal role of Christians in the process of European construction, he intended to stress his commitment to continuity with his predecessor van Luyin under a banner of a contribution, in humility and respect for the respective roles, to building the "common house" of Europe.

"It's our firm intention to nourish that unitary dimension of Europe" Marx concluded, constantly involved in defending the role of ethics at the level of social choice, "so that it may become a sharing of values, a communion of principles that may extended itself beyond the diversities and specificities of the individual nations." 
The European bishops are therefore close to the populations and their needs, and reaffirm the dignity of each one and appeal to a correct expression of the ideals of solidarity and subsidiarity, as stated in the document of January.

The Spring Assembly, in addition to the election of new directors, had as its agenda the theme of the European year dedicated to active aging and to intergenerational solidarity: many were the voices of the experts who took the floor in front of the bishops, including Giancarlo Blangiardo of Milan-Bicocca and Prof. Penza, representing the Community of Sant'Egidio. 

"Aging is not to be considered a burden", they said in a statement the bishops, "but a social resource: the elderly have a wealth of expertise and life experience that must be transmitted to younger generations."

The same concepts were emphasized by President Marx at the end: "Europe must contribute to achieving a better world and we can do this if we start with the small, everyday things, with the issues that affect people. Let's think about solidarity, about investing in favor of the least ones, the poor, the weak, both in Europe and worldwide." 

The bishops argue that "the will of the elderly to engage in volunteer activities, in civic movements, and particularly in pastoral work in parishes and ecclesial communities, is essential for the common good of our societies. Generations cannot live only for themselves but must rely on each other. The dialogue and solidarity between the older generation and the younger lies at the root of the human development of our societies because it leads to hope and personal fulfillment."

Emphasizing the essential role of the family in assisting and caring for the elderly - of which recognition is being sought for the economic value in terms of government savings - the bishops are appealing to all European governments to provide the necessary support; in particular there is cited the opportunity to grant permits for paid care for the workers and to assess the time-off taken from work to care for family members of all ages, for the purposes of retirement. 

In Europe, according to the bishops, the families would aspire to have more children than they have in reality: the states could meet this legitimate desire through appropriate and more rational family policies, child care facilities and any other measure to ensure a better balance between work time and family time.

Among the upcoming events in which COMECE is committed, there is the Week for Life, a series of meetings and seminars (March 26-29) organized by the European Parliament on a wide horizon, of the whole understanding of life, ranging from research on cancer to that on stem cells, from the palliative treatment to the defense of unborn life, up to sexual health and the fight against AIDS.

From March 26 to 30 there will arrive in Brussels a delegation from Pakistan led by Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi, for an official visit to the European Commission and to participate in a seminar/dialogue organized by COMECE, CEC and BEPA.