“A wonderful atmosphere of family”: Being a Catholic priest at the Novi Sad Assembly

Fr. Thaddée Barnas in Novi Sad. Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC

By Maksim Hacak

Benedictine priest father Thaddée Barnas is participating  in the CEC General Assembly for the third time. As a journalist, he was at the Assembly in Lyon in 2009, in Budapest in 2013, and now the Novi Sad Assembly, which, in his opinion, is the best so-far.

“There  is a better atmosphere; it is easier to work here . . . the major problems have already been solved. CEC is the place where Christians from the East and from the West can meet. For many the only place they could meet were the boats in Denmark when the people escaped from the Communist East Germany,” he says.”  “The whole idea was to bring East and West together. That is no longer a problem. Here is a wonderful atmosphere of a family.”

Father Thaddée Barnas was born and raised in Chicago , where he used to go to the Belarusian Catholic church. “When I told to my father that I want to go to a monastery in Belgium, he said, ‘Why do you want to go to Europe? Don’t you know they like to make a war on each other every twenty years?’” Barnas continues, “That is an American simplification of history . . . but in CEC we have this culture of reconciliation, and it’s certainly a good and necessary thing.”

Barnas was not in favor of the relocation of CEC from Geneva to Brussels. He thought there was a danger that the organisation would no longer be a place of theological discussion,  but become only  a lobby organization to the European Union on issues like migration, climate control, bioethics and others. He soon, however, changed his mind and saw that CEC still has a strong theological and spiritual soul.

“It gives me a hope, also for the Christians in Belgium. We are going through a kind of crisis, we have not been able to preach the word of God and reconciliation, so our churches are becoming empty. If we have CEC as a part of our Belgian Christianity, we have a better chance to be present in society,” he underlines. “The Orthodox, Protestants, and the Catholics get alone very well, but our impact on the political life, on social ideas is not sufficient. We want to be witnesses to Christ’s gospel, and we are not managing.”

Although the Catholic Church is not a Member Church of CEC, it often contributes to its work through National Councils of Churches and close collaboration with the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

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