For a Europe of Freedom
Freedom and liberties: a Christian approach
The following is a statement from the Joint Committee of the Conference of European Churches and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences on the occasion of its annual meeting in Rome from 6 to 8 May 2015.
The CEC-CCEE Joint Committee annual meeting took place in Rome from 6 to 8 May at the invitation of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
, President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and CCEE Vice President.
Participants discussed the theme Freedom and liberties: A Christian approach. Reflections were offered from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox perspectives.
A highlight of the meetings was an audience with Pope Francis
on Thursday, 7 May. The Holy Father emphasised the need for churches in Europe to “find common answers to the questions which contemporary society puts to us Christians.”
Participants also met with British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sir Nigel Baker
, who stressed that states and churches share a common interest in preserving Christian values for the sake of promoting democracy and peace in Europe.
Cardinal Kurt Koch
, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, greeted participants on Friday morning.
The Rome meetings were marked by prayers according to the traditions of the denominations present at the meeting.
Participants concluded their gathering with the adoption of the following message on the theme of the meeting:
We Europeans enjoy immense freedom in our daily lives. We live in debt to earlier generations, who struggled to build a social order where the common good and freedom of persons could exist in harmony.
On this 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, we remember sacrifices made in a violent battle against deadly ideologies. This struggle for freedom gave rise to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
, which highlights that freedom is always paired with duties and responsibilities.
In the shadow of this dark period in history, we recommit ourselves to a vision of freedom for the flourishing of all.
In a pluralistic Europe, we are convinced of a need for a Christian vision of human freedom. We consider that freedom is part of ourselves because God created us free. Our Christian freedom is God-given, rooted in Christ, and calls us into a life of service of one another. Christ challenges us to use our freedom to bring about the Kingdom of God in the here and now. There is no freedom unless this freedom is with and for others.
Freedom rooted in truth often conflicts with those found elsewhere in our societies. Notions of freedom that support individualistic satisfaction and meaningless consumption at the expense of others are all too common.
As we gather in Rome, we discussed a number of aspects of freedom oriented to responsibility to God and to neighbour:
We call for a freedom that denounces oppression and violence against women in the name of any religion.
We call for a freedom that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean, and works for an end to the causes of desperate migration and allows for all to live peacefully in their homelands.
We call for a freedom that speaks words of solidarity in the face of anti-Roma prejudice.
We call for a freedom committed to the end of worldwide modern day slavery and human trafficking according to the 2 December religious leaders’ pledge on the abolition of slavery.
We call for a freedom that names Creation as sacred gift, especially as faith communities strive to share their vision on environmental questions and accompany the Paris climate change talks in December (COP21).
We call for a freedom that chooses hope over despair, and lives in solidarity with young people in their struggles to build careers and raise families.
Seventy years after the end of World War II, we pray for lasting peace in Europe and the whole world, which is the fruit of all justice.
In all that we do, may we return to scripture’s cry, "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another." (Galatians 5:13)
Rt Rev. Christopher Hill, DD, KCVO, President of CEC
Very Rev. Karin Burstrand, Church of Sweden, CEC Vice-President
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan of France (Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), CEC Vice-President
Rev. Adriana Florea, Evangelical Church A.B. in Romania
Rev. Silke Tosch, Union of Evangelical Free Churches in Germany
Metropolitan Joseph, Metropolitan Romanian Orthodox Church of Western and Southern Europe
Rev. Archimandrite Ignatios Sotiriadis, Church of Greece
Rev. Guy Liagre, CEC General Secretary
Cardinal Péter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, President of CCEE
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, CCEE Vice-President
His Grace Mgr Angelo Massafra (OFM), Archbishop of Shkodrë-Pult, CCEE Vice-President
His Grace Mgr Ján Babjak (S.J.), Archbishop of Prešov
His Grace Mgr Roland Minnerath, Archbishop of Dijon
His Grace Mgr Kevin McDonald, Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark
Fr Patrick Daly, General Secretary of Comece
Mgr Duarte da Cunha, CCEE General Secretary
For more information, please contact Erin Green
, Communication Coordinator - Conference of European Churches