Message to the European Union

For an open Europe, a land of solidarity

Since the young adult meeting is taking place in Brussels, headquarters of numerous European institutions, it seemed important to address the following message to the European Union. On 15 December, Brother Alois delivered the message personally to Mr José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and he sent it to the heads of state and government of the 27 countries of the Union. Mr Barroso in turn addressed a message of welcome and friendship to the young people.

The search for peace and reconciliation in the human family is part and parcel of the vocation of the Taizé Community. For thirty years now the community has been animating a “pilgrimage of trust on earth” which has brought together several generations of young adults from every continent.

Together in Brussels for a stage in this pilgrimage, from December 29, 2008 to January 2, 2009, 40,000 young adults from throughout Europe would like to rekindle the intuition and the enthusiasm that marked the beginnings of the building of Europe: to make reconciliation among peoples a reality by setting in common their resources and their specific gifts.

The unprecedented adventure of building a united Europe

Europe has succeeded in initiating a period of peace without precedent in its history. The road already travelled has awakened tremendous hope in other regions of the world. After so much conflict between Europeans, peace is a priceless gift. And yet it is never attained once and for all; each generation still has to build it.

Do not give in to apathy

European institutions are sometimes viewed today with incomprehension and a certain degree of apathy. And yet they are indispensible to ensure continuity in building peace on the continent. They must not, however, be a substitute for taking on responsibility at every level of European society. [1] For their part, national leaders can contribute to a new outlook by refusing unfairly to designate European institutions as scapegoats when the time comes for hard decisions.

Solidarity on a worldwide scale

Building a united Europe acquires its full meaning only if it shows itself to be in solidarity with the poorest peoples on the earth. These peoples are evolving so quickly! The current situation requires a new effort of understanding to adapt European institutions and aid mechanisms.

Many young people are asking for the globalization of the economy to go hand in hand with a globalization of solidarity. Does not the goal of shared prosperity call upon the rich countries to show greater generosity, both by investments in favour of developing countries and by a considerate and responsible welcome offered to the immigrants coming from those countries?

By forming a great many personal relationships across their own continent, many young people have already acquired a European awareness. That does not mean abandoning the specific characteristics of each people or region, but rather undertaking a sharing of gifts while respecting diversity. Initiatives such as a European volunteer service will deepen mutual understanding between peoples and regions.

The current financial crisis

The current financial crisis makes it clear that, if the economy disregards ethical norms, it cannot develop in a lasting way. This crisis can become an opportunity if it leads us to question our priorities in building up world society: what kind of development are we interested in? What kind of development is possible that respects the limited resources of our planet?

The more complex the economic and financial system becomes, the more it has to be coordinated and regulated to promote the common good of the entire human family. Supranational bodies that set ground rules ensuring greater justice are henceforth indispensible. [2]

Two contributions of Christians

The Gospel encourages simplicity of life. It calls believers to bring their own desires under control in order to succeed in setting limits, not by constraint but by choice. [3]Freely chosen simplicity enables those who are privileged to resist the race to acquire what is superfluous and contributes to the struggle against the poverty imposed on those who are deprived.

Promoting steps toward forgiveness is another contribution of Christians. Such steps imply the refusal to pass on to the next generation rancour for still festering wounds—not to forget a painful past but to heal the memory by forgiveness, interrupting the chain reaction that causes resentment to endure. Without forgiveness, there is no future for societies. The powerful impetus that lies at the origin of the building of Europe arose to a great extent from this conviction. [4]

Everyone can take part in a civilization marked not by mistrust but by trust. At times, in the course of history, just a few people were enough to tip the scales towards peace. [5]

[1In order to go forward in deepening a sense of community, the principle of subsidiarity is essential. It allows the agencies of the Community to intervene in certain areas when the member-states are unable to do so, while at the same time respecting the proper jurisdictions of these states. Decisions should be taken at the level closest to the citizens of Europe. This principle encourages each one to assume their own responsibilities and should keep nations from making excessive demands.

[2In 1963, in his encyclical Pacem in terris, Pope John XXIII had proposed the creation of a “public authority of universal competence.” That prophetic intuition is more relevant now than ever.

[3Jesus said, “What good is it for a person to gain the whole world if he loses or ruins himself?” (Luke 9:25)

[4That conviction was a stimulus for the coming together of France and Germany. It also lay at the origin of the mutual forgiveness between the Polish and German peoples at the initiative of the Polish bishops in 1965. Christians thus paved the way for political reconciliation.

[5The founders of the European Union were only a few, but they had a brilliant intuition: to prevent another conflict by beginning to hold resources in common (coal and steel) which were used in the past to resupply the war machine.

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