Lisbon, 18-19 October 2018

The immense role of churches and religions in the debate on the future of Europe was highlighted at the 21st Annual Intercultural Dialogue with Churches and Religious Institutions that was organized by the competent Working Group of EPP in Lisbon (Mafra), from 18-19 October 2018.

Welcome speeches were addressed by José Manuel Fernandes, (MEP of EPP), Mr. Helder Sousa Silva, Mayor of Mafra, Mrs. Assunçao Cristas, President of CDS-PP (Centro Democrático e Social – Partido Popular), and by the Co-Presidents of the Working Group, MEPs György Hölvényi and Jan Olbrycht. All speakers emphasized the importance of continuing the dialogue with churches and religious institutions. The financial crisis, migration, the social turmoil caused by new problems, and many more, are some of the challenges that European citizens are faced with. 

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The schedule of the conference was divided in three parts: the future of Europe was debated during the first part, while the second part focused on youth, family and education, and finally the third was about peace and security. Invited speakers at the first part included Br. Olivier Poquillon, General Secretary of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the EU, Mr. Henrique Mota, radio producer, and Rabbi Natan Peres of the Israelite Community of Lisbon; at the second part, Mr. Miguel Ángel Sancho Gargallo, President of the European Institute “Society and Education”, Mr. Antoine Renard, president of the Federation of Catholic Families Association in Europe, fr. Emmanuel Pisani, Exec. Director of the Theological Institute – Catholic University of Paris, and His Grace the elected Bishop of Melitinis Mr. Maximos on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; at the third and final part, Mrs. Graça Franco, director of “Radio Renascença”, Mr. Eric Gozlan, director of “Union of People for Peace”, and Mr. Felipe Pathé Duarte, Professor at the University of Lisboa.

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The Committee of Representatives of the Orthodox Churches to the European Union (CROCEU) was represented by the Very Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Ioannou, Executive Secretary of CROCEU, who spoke at the first part of the conference. Fr. Nektarios stressed the fact that the combination of unsolved problems in the European Union (migration, populism, environmental and financial crisis, malfunction of democratic institutions, population shift, and others) is going to have a repercussion at the upcoming elections for the European Parliament of 2019. Religions, especially Christianity and the Orthodox Church, are called to share their views on the said problems, in order to help the European Family grow stronger. Among other things, he pointed out: “the Orthodox Church is called to find solutions to new problems that were unknown in the past and to reject introversion, in order to fulfill its mission. Our Church is obliged to broaden its efforts for the evangelization of its people, support them in difficult times and offer internal peace and security. The spirit of Orthodoxy is renewable, contemporary and innovative. A spirit of strength and wisdom. Today, mankind is in dire need of all these above-mentioned elements, especially the younger generations, who struggle with injustice, crime, corruption, unemployment and insecurity. …Despite the fact that the European Union has experienced numerous shocks during the last decade, the elements that hold it together still exist. It is up to us to improve and build on these elements, so that the European Union, as one of the major international players, becomes more cohesive, more efficient and more receptive to the needs of its citizens. History has always proven that nations can derive their strength through unity. A united Europe is now called upon to transform its differences into strength and to strive for the achievement of the Union’s common good with respect, unity and solidarity.”

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Later in the evening of October 18, the President of EPP Mr. Manfred Weber held an official dinner to honor the participants, where he exalted the importance of Dialogue between social partners, and especially the Dialogue with churches and religious institutions.

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