"Ever since the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, many European countries have failed to consistently protect one of the fundamental freedoms enshrined in their Constitutions, as well as in European and international treaties. Freedom of religion can indeed be limited, in its external dimension, in certain circumstances - such as to ensure public health. Yet these limitations should be proportionate to their aim and not be applied in a discriminatory manner.
Moreover, up until now, the Churches in Europe have made an overall undeniable contribution to the efforts to alleviate the impact of the pandemic on our societies, intensifying their philanthropic activities and adapting their pastoral work to the new, restrictive conditions.
Now, the Church is not asking for any preferential treatment, but it is saddening to see that the spiritual needs of believers are seen as "unessential commodities" by some state authorities who impose harsh limitations on ecclesial life, while leaving untouched other secular public settings which expose people to the risk of infection in much higher extent than taking part into a religious service."
These were the main points that Rev. Fr. George Valcu, General Secretary of the Committee of Representatives of the Orthodox Churches to the European Union (CROCEU), put forth in his contribution to the International Conference on the Role of the Catholic Church in the Process of European Integration, which took place in Krakow on 9-10 October 2020.
Having reached its 20th edition, the conference was jointly organised by the John Paul II Pontifical University, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the EPP Group in the European Parliament. Given the circumstances, it took place in a restricted, hybrid format, with some of the speakers and participants taking part remotely, via a web-conferencing platform. This year’s topic was the Christian responsibility for Europe, with a strong emphasis on impact of the ongoing Covid19 pandemic on European society. The last panel was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's birth, which occasioned a very consistent discussion on his contribution to the shaping of European history over the 20th century, as well as his legacy for today.
The event brought together church representatives, politicians and academics and included the ceremony of awarding the yearly Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek's Award - IN VERITATE to the well-known Italian academic and politician Rocco Buttiglione, for outstanding achievements in combining Christian and European values.