Twenty-seven years after the fall of communist regimes, Central and Eastern Europe faces new challenges. The most serious are the crisis of the family, connected with the demographic crisis, and the crisis of faith and cultural identity. Lately, many countries have to face the numerous migrations from the Middle East and Africa. On September 8-9, the representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Central and Eastern Europe met in Slovakia, the country which is now presiding over the EU Council, to reflect on these issues.
According to the participants it is essential that among European countries there is a real partnership based on the equal dignity of all peoples and mutual respect. Equally, it is important that national and European public structures develop a genuine dialogue with the representatives of the Christian Churches, as well as with the leaders of other religions.
The bishops believe it is necessary to foster the reflection on the European identity, which has always been connected with the family based on marriage between a man and a woman. Only a society with an offspring is a society with hope. The Church is well aware of her obligation to bear witness to the Good News of Christ in the world. This is why she appreciates and supports the family, the fundamental human community according to the Creator’s plan. Unfortunately, some decisions taken by the European bodies jeopardize the family and the protection of life. At present, Europe, first of all, needs stable families and a cautious population policy. Immigration is no solution to the demographic crisis.
The participants are deeply touched by the suffering of people who are fleeing war conflicts, especially those ravaging Syria. At the same time, they suffer because of the terrorist attacks in Europe, which cause many victims. As a consequence, they think it is right to develop communication with the Muslim world and devote more effort to help the needy according to the divine commandment of love. The bishops feel a special duty to help persecuted Christians, but they do not exclude from their hearts any other human person in need of help, both in crisis regions of the world, and in our countries.
While pursuing these human and Christian purposes, we must proceed with generosity and wisdom, and take into consideration the cultural, religious, and economic circumstances of the European peoples and the incoming people. The bishops emphasize the fundamental difference between the situation in European countries which are destinations of the migration flow, and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which are transit countries – with a standard of living that corresponds to only 20% of the standard of living of the West. Migrants generally do not wish to remain in these countries. The aid to be provided to them may require special actions, sometimes different than those adopted by other countries. In this context, it is legitimate and even necessary to reflect on how to design the future of the European continent, on which values to build society, and on what place should be given to religion.
The bishops pray for all victims of violence, war, and terrorism. At the same time, they address a serious appeal to the leaders of all European countries to develop a common and deep reflection on the future. They wish that Europe becomes a continent that puts in the first place the respect for human life – from conception to death – and that support for the family and marriage has the first place in the awareness of public representatives.