A call from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for the EU to rediscover its Catholic roots is an invitation for politicians to bring Catholic values to bear in their work, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor has said.
Addressing the spring assembly of COMECE – the European bishops’ conference – Mr Juncker spoke effusively about the importance of Catholic social teaching, upon which the European project was founded in the aftermath of World War Two.
“I am a fervent advocate of the social doctrine of the Church. It is one of the most noble teachings of our Church,” Mr Juncker said on March 14. “All of this is part of a doctrine that Europe does not apply often enough. I would like us to rediscover the values and guiding principles of the social teaching of the Church.”
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Bishop Treanor explained that Mr Juncker had been looking back on the achievements and challenges that have marked the European project over the last five years, looking ahead to the future.
“He began by emphasising that this European project is inclusive, it doesn’t exclude anybody,” Dr Treanor said. “He quoted Pope John Paul II, saying it has two lungs – east and west – and went on to talk about the European Union being a peace-building project.
“He emphasised the importance of that, mentioning that after some 60-70 years of European construction the permanent challenge of building, maintaining, and consolidating peace is something that escapes those who have not had the experience of war, and in terms of our relationships with our neighbours and in terms of internal tensions the importance of building true peace and security is foundational,” he said.
Mr Juncker then observed how the European project draws its energy from a number of sources – “and especially from Christianity and Christian values, rooted, as he says, or mediated in reason” – Dr Treanor continued, adding that the president went on to say that “Europe and its member states needs to focus more on promoting the dignity of the human person, promoting a community of values, and also promoting and building the rule of law”.
The president’s emphasis on Catholic social teaching makes perfect sense, Dr Treanor said, given the challenges posed by today’s changing world.
“We are undergoing such profound changes in our culture and in our world, which are impacting on the world of work, which are impacting also on democracy, which are impacting on the citizen over against not only the nation state but the world economy, that institutions at regional, national and supranational level do have to take account of them,” he said. “And it is through a process of dialogue, such as COMECE is engaged in with the European institutions, that we provide for the irrigation of policy development by the social teaching of the Church.
“In other words,” he continued, “we need women and men – our fellow citizens – who in our schools and through our catechesis have discovered and have appreciated the contribution of Catholic social teaching to reflection on the human condition in all its aspects, for these people in their professional lives at national and international level to funnel into policy making the insights of Catholic social teaching.”
He described Mr Juncker‘s call as “a recognition of the contribution of Christian tradition to shaping public policy and at the same time an invitation to continue making this input through the initiatives taken through an institution such as COMECE.”