Tuesday 21. September 2021
#210 - December 2017

Continuing the dialogue after Rome

(Re)Thinking Europe encourages us to continue dialogue on the ground but also between the East and West of our continent, according to Enrico Letta, President of Jacques Delors Institute.

If all roads lead to Rome, which one do we take when we leave? At the invitation of the Holy See and COMECE, 350 of us, bishops, elected members, researchers and association leaders met in the Vatican for a Dialogue on Europe, which is dear to us and whose quest for unity impassions us.


The small miracle of the gathering


What remains with me first and foremost from the two days concluded by the Address of Pope Francis is that they actually took place at all. A small miracle if I dare say so. In a continent of advanced secularisation, rightly keen to separate politics from religion, and barely emerged from an existential crisis about its plan for union, nothing could have been less obvious. All the more so since quite a few Catholics have kept their political distance from a project deemed by them to be too far removed from Christianity. The Holy See, whose aim is universal by definition, could have considered that the question Christianity’s contribution to the European project (the theme of these days) not to be a priority, and futile in an increasingly less euro-centred world and Church.


We therefore have to welcome these days as encouraging from a non-European pope who used this occasion to make his fifth address on Europe. Previous speeches on Europe were made to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, a third one at the conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, and a fourth one on the occasion of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. We have also received encouragement from all these faces during the two days they spent together, some of whom have spent many years in Brussels’ circles, some of them fresh faces. We leave Rome with the confidence of feeling less alone as a Christian, still interested in Europe.


Participating in debates


These days should not only leave us with happy memories and fine words. They represent the starting point of a dialogue which deserves to be continued. So where will it go? It is pointless to have completely fabricated meetings which become comfortable little chats. Christians must not exclude themselves from but must, whatever their state, take part in current debates, they must listen and they must speak. There are already so many movements, of Maisons de l'Europe and other places within civil society which need new impetus. If conventions démocratiques or other forms of dialogue among citizens emerge next year, Christians will have their place amongst them. 


In the opposite direction, they can also open their various premises and institutions to European issues and initiatives. The Semaines sociales de France which I had the honour of opening, have demonstrated themselves as a successful example, this year dedicating their congress to social Catholicism in Europe. At the end of every year, Taizé organises a special event for young people in a city in the continent, this year it is in Basle. However, this can be done on a smaller scale, in a diocese, a parish or a school. When we are preparing our diary for 2018, it is pertinent to ask ourselves: “What have we got planned on Europe this year?”


East-West dialogue


These multiple exchanges on the ground must not prevent the pursuit of a dialogue which began in Rome but which certainly deserves to be developed, namely that between the East and the West of our continent. In spite of the same Catholic reference points, we draw conclusions that are sometimes too far apart. We must not stop at the observation of a divergence, with regret for differences and rejection of unity. It is the vocation of Christians to bridge the gap between Western nations and countries in Eastern and Central Europe so that they learn how to get to know each other and better understand one another. This goes both directions. Let us visit each other as much as possible. Let’s spend time together. This would be of great service to Europe, and it is becoming ever more urgent to offer it.


Enrico Letta

President of Jacques Delors Institute.


Translated from the original text in French


EN The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Social Centre.


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Editors-in-Chief: Martin Maier SJ

Note: The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Jesuit European Office and COMECE.