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Tensions between Eastern, Western European bishops at Slovakia gathering?

March 23, 2022

At the press conference marking the conclusion of the 3rd European Social Days in Bratislava, Slovakia, the statements made by the presidents of COMECE (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union) and the CCEE (Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe) suggested tensions between bishops from Western Europe and Eastern Europe, with the latter emphasizing that Catholic social action needs to be grounded in Catholic identity.

“In Bratislava we have been in a real process of synodality, and it is by continuing to walk together that we shall see where the Spirit of God is leading us,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, the president of COMECE, who recently said that Catholic teaching on homosexuality is “false.”

“We could sometimes feel that there are some small differences between Eastern and Western Europe, but these differences never became a wall,” the Luxembourg cardinal continued. “On the contrary, they inspired us to be better listeners, to become people of dialogue.”

Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, Lithuania, the president of the CCEE, said that “we cannot simply adopt other people’s agendas, become just another NGO [non-governmental organization] working for family, economic and digital equality or a self-sustaining environment,” or become “merely an instrument of governmental programs seeking to accomplish albeit virtuous goals.”

“The moment that we lose our own identity as Church, the People of God, on its journey to the Heavenly Kingdom, we have lost everything—even if we manage to save humanity and the planet we now call our home,” he continued.

“The problems that we [confront] at a merely human level may attempt to steal our hope, which must always be in rooted in Jesus Christ and not in our human successes or failures in any given area,” Archbishop Grusas added. These challenges “must be addressed together, since they all arise from our relationship to God, and it is from this perspective that we must work for justice, peace, solidarity and fraternity with our brothers and sisters in the family of humanity”


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