CEC General Secretary Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen commended the EU-initiated Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). However, he stressed that European churches and faith-based communities would have liked to see their concerns, especially related to freedom of religion and belief, featured in the final report that articulates results from the CoFoE.
Dr Sørensen made an online intervention at the EPP Working Group Intercultural and Religious Dialogue on 22 June, addressing the theme “Outcome of the Conference on the Future of Europe”.
The aim of the meeting was to deepen the understanding of the role of religions in Europe, as well as to exchange views with academic experts in the fields of religion, history and culture.
“A democratic and just future for Europe is a concern for all our 114 Member Churches,” said CEC General Secretary. “This is the basic reason why CEC was among the first to mobilise when the Conference on the Future of Europe was launched by the European Institutions in 2021.”
In early March, CEC informed all Member Churches about the Conference, encouraging them to take an active part in the deliberations ahead, he shared. The foundation for this move was the view that the CoFoE offered a great opportunity for CEC and its Member Churches to bring forward a Christian perspective in the debate on the future of Europe and European societies.
Sørensen reminded the participants that churches’ engagement with CoFoE is rooted in the longstanding Article 17 tradition in the European Institutions, signifying that churches are recognised as credible dialogue partners to the EU.
“In line with the provisions of Article 17, we would have appreciated an explicit concern for churches and other faith-based organisations as legitimate voices in a European discourse on our future societies,” he said.
He went on to say that European societies are moving towards an increasingly secular and more pluralistic nature. This allows for more voices to be heard. However, secularity and plurality also mean that established authorities of former times are being challenged.
“In dialogues with our Member Churches, we experience that, in recent years, strong signs of ‘religious illiteracy’ are emerging throughout Europe. Religion is regarded with suspicion. Therefore, CEC with its Member Churches will continue working to secure and maintain a Christian and other faith-based voices in the future of Europe,” he added.
The meeting was opened by the co-chairmen of the EPP Working Group Mr Jan Olbrycht MEP and Mr György Hölvényi MEP. Among others who presented were Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, General Secretary of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE), Very Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Aimilianos Bogiannou, director of the Brussels Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (CROCEU), Ambassador Ms Ismat Jahan, Permanent Observer of the OIC Mission to the EU and Rabbi Avi Tawil, director of the European Jewish Community Centre.