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From 15-17 September 2019 a Conference took place in Madrid under the title “Peace without Borders”. The Conference was co-organized by the Community of Sant’ Egidio and the archdiocese of Madrid. Many Orthodox hierarchs participated, among whom H.E. Metropolitan Athanasios of Achaia, director of the Office of the Representation of the Church of Greece to the EU.

The latter moderated a panel on the topic “Living together in Europe”. Here follows his intervention.


                                                                            17 September 2019, Madrid

For thirty-three years the Community of Sant’ Egidio successfully organizes a platform for a dialogue among people coming from all over the world to address challenges facing our societies whether in the religious, political, economic or social fields. Particularly those of us living in Europe today feel the urgent need to give renewed impetus to the visionary project as the means by which the nations and peoples of Europe TOGETHER address the global challenges confronting all our societies. Especially in our days, we realize the importance and the urgent need to foster the European project tackling the much-lamented democratic deficit by developing an appreciation of the integral European dimension of our sense of citizenship.

It is worth mentioning here that complex challenges in areas such as culture, migration and culture of acceptance, integration policy, the family and questions related to human life, security issues and terrorism have led EU policy-makers to consult and exchange with Church and faith communities on the legal basis of article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty. This dialogue which is in progress is also a challenge for Churches and religious communities to grow in inventiveness and imagination so that they may reach beyond long-established comfort lines in thought and practice.

Almost 70 years after the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950 Europeans do not see clearly how solidarity can transcend the nation. The Brexit affaire, unfortunately, does not help at all to rekindle the prophetic quality of the founding vision with peace as its aim, freedom of access as a basic principle and solidarity as its method. European citizens were always inspired by leaders who sought to advance together in fields where it is desirable and possible to act in a spirit of creative and trustworthy cooperation. We have to underscore here that immense civic and cultural educational efforts are needed to generate a sense of European citizenship commensurate with the significance and success of the European project.

As human constructs, the EU’s political arrangements and institutions will ever be in need of improvement and reform. The success of the European project will depend in ever-greater measure on the political will of its citizens to make collective and comprehensive efforts to build a community of values which aim in promoting peace and justice within Europe and beyond its borders. It may be an encouraging sign the fact that the last European elections attracted a large number of citizens who turned out to participate in a democratic act of key importance.

A point I would like to make is that it will always be of vital importance for Europe to shape policies offering a determinative perspective to neighboring countries. Most European citizens require to see ever-clearer the key and identifying aim of the EU, that is the replacement of the balance of power politics of an earlier period by a politics of solidarity between the nations. A spirit of togetherness in the minds of those who live in Europe today will grow only if comprehensive and continuous efforts are made to build up a European public opinion based on an agreed set of values and objectives. Contributions of religious communities to debate on the multiple policy fields is to ensure that Europe is not exclusively subject to the law of the marketplace, but determined to safeguard the dignity of the human person also in social, cultural and economic relations. I wish to pray with you that the private, public and voluntary sectors of our society, including Churches and religious communities, cooperate for the good of all citizens."

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