Pope Francis writes to the Archbishop of Vilnius and President of CCEE to mark the opening of the European Catholic Social Days and stresses the importance of protecting, accompanying and integrating as European countries accept so many vulnerable people fleeing the war.
By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis welcomed the opening of the European Catholic Social Days – being held in Bratislava, Slovakia, from March 17-20 – in a letter to Bishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, President of the Council of the European Bishops’ Conference (in Latin Consilium Conferentiarum Episcoporum Europae, CCEE).
The Pope noted that on the occasion of the third event of its kind, organized by the CCEE in collaboration with the Commission of Episcopal Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) and the Slovak Episcopal Conference “I would like to extend my cordial greetings to you , dear Brother, and to all the participants”.
The tragedy of war
Pope Francis immediately turned his attention to “the tragedy of war unfolding in the heart of Europe”, noting that this is not what we had hoped for after the difficult health emergency caused by the pandemic. Now, he continued, we remain “amazed” because we remember scenes from the great wars of the last century, scenes that “we never thought we would see again”.
As a community of believers, the Pope noted that “the heartbreaking cry for help from our Ukrainian brothers and sisters urges us not only to reflect seriously, but to cry with them and to do something for them.”
Once again, humanity is threatened by a perverse abuse of power and vested interests, which condemns the defenseless to all forms of brutal violence.
The pope then thanked the bishops of the country for their rapid response “by coming to the aid of this population, guaranteeing them material aid, shelter and hospitality”.
Pope Francis then turned his attention to the title chosen for the days celebrated: Europe beyond the pandemic: a new beginning. He noted that it invites us to reflect on the ongoing transition in European society. This era, still marked by the pandemic, brought about important social, economic, cultural and even ecclesial changes. “In this situation marked by suffering,” the Pope noted, “fears have increased, poverty has increased and loneliness has multiplied; while many have lost their jobs and live in precarious conditions, the way of relating to others has changed for all”.
We cannot stand idly by, the Pope stressed. As Christians and as European citizens, we are called to courageously implement “the common good of our European homelands, of our homeland Europe“. Yes, he continued, Europe and the nations that make it up are not opposed, and building the future does not mean uniting, but uniting even more in respect for diversity”.
Finally, Pope Francis turned to the logo that was chosen for these days: that of St Martin of Tours cutting his coat in two to give it to a poor man. “It reminds us that love is concrete closeness, sharing, concern for others,” the pope said adding that “those who love overcome fear and mistrust towards those who come to our borders in search of a better life. : if they welcome, protect, accompany and integrate so many brothers and sisters fleeing conflicts, famine and poverty, it is just and humane, it is even more Christian”.
Finally, the pope noted that the walls that are still present in Europe, “should be transformed into gateways to its heritage of history, faith, art and culture; dialogue and social friendship should be encouraged, so that human coexistence based on brotherhood may grow”.