Catholic Church remains with its eye on the European ball
Four years may seem very short. When it comes to an end one has the feeling it just started yesterday. There are so many programmes and initiatives that are just up and running, there are projects that are still only in their early days, there are so many other ideas germinating about what could still be done! The fifth General Secretary of COMECE since 1980 leaves the stage on 15 May 2016, the day of Pentecost. It is a good day to open a new chapter and move to pastures which one hopes to be even greener than the ones on which one has grazed since 2012. It seems a good idea, as the mandate draws to a close, to advance certain reflections on Europe’s and the Church’s history between 2012 and today.
The General Secretary took up his appointment in the pontificate of Benedict XVI at a time when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was still at the helm in the Secretariat of State. José Manuel Barroso was President of the Commission, Count Herman Van Rompuy was President of the European Council. Martin Schulz may still remain President of the European Parliament, but the EP’s relationship with the other two institutions was radically changed by the election. So, the toile de fond against which the in-coming General Secretary found himself operating in the early days of his mandate were, to put it mildly with British understatement, a little different to the scene of which he takes leave in 2016. The intervening years have been, to invoke the well-worn Chinese curse, interesting times.
The election of Pope Francis as the first non-European pontiff in almost a thousand five hundred years and the political and institutional impact of the European Parliament elections in 2014 were bound to make an impact on the workings and mission of COMECE. For the new Bishop of Rome, Europe was not the centre of his world. Certainly, as the papal visit to Strasbourg and the message given clearly indicate, the European project was something Pope Francis takes immensely seriously. Europe acknowledges this fact through having Charlemagne’s city, Aachen, offer our Argentinian pope the Karlspreis. But Francis’ horizon is wider, an eclipse of home base is inevitable. The Catholic Church remains, however, with its eye firmly on the European ball (and not just because it is European Football Championship year!), and the leadership profile of COMECE is strong and focused. The COMECE Secretariat team too is bristling with good and creative ideas. It is a legacy to Europe in which the out-going General Secretary is proud to share.
As the tide ebbs for the General Secretary in office since 2012, the tranquil sea that once was a peaceful, prosperous, outward-looking Europe has become dark and turbulent. A scriptural image which might bring sobering comfort to both our Church and our continent in these troubled times is that of Jesus in the boat. When the squall rose on the lake, he rebuked the wind and the rough water. Europe is currently in the eye of a pretty rough storm. It has been the conviction of the General Secretary, whose swan song was sung at the close of the spring Plenary Assembly, that COMECE too has Our Lord at the helm.
Father Patrick H. Daly