The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, was part of a delegation from Ireland which attended a European conference on Catholic social teaching.
‘Catholic Social Days for Europe,’ an international conference organised by the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), took place in Gdansk, Poland from October 8-11.
The aim of the conference was to provide an opportunity for Catholic laity to debate major anthropological and socio-ethical challenges at EU level, inspired by the social teaching of the Catholic Church. The theme of the conference, the first of its kind, was: Solidarity – the challenge for Europe.
The objective of the conference was to provide opportunities to debate, discuss, interact and examine concrete examples of solidarity throughout Europe. The date and venue were significant and symbolic, prompting memories of the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939; the end of Communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989; and the first visit by Pope John Paul II to his homeland in 1979, which gave rise to Solidarnosc, the social movement of millions of Poles which started in Gdansk.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, delievered the opening address on the theme The Concept and Reality of Solidarity in the European Union – a Reflection on the Basis of the Social Teaching of the Church. Other speakers included Mr Hans-Gert Pöttering, former President of the European Parliament; Professor Gosta Esping-Andersen, social scientist; Ms Eveline Herfkens, UN coordinator for the Millennium campaign; Tunne Kelam and Alojs Peterle both Members of the European Parliament; and Professor Dr Irena Lipowicz, Special Ambassador for German-Polish relations.
The Irish delegation was led by Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, the delgate of the Irish Bishops' Conference to COMECE. The themes examined during the conference were: The Human Person; Europe’s Families, A European Socio-Economic Model; Europe – founded on solidarity; and The Global Common Good.
Following the Gdansk conference, Bishop Abernethy said: “As an ecumenical visitor it was a privilege to be invited and to share in the ‘Gdansk Experience.’ It was delightful to share in the Irish humour and ‘Craic.’ The depth of information shared from around Europe was very helpful, not least in issues surrounding family.”
Bishop Abernethy went on: “From my own perspective it was very helpful to see how politicians were able to share their insights from a faith perspective. To have politicians committed to faith and policy was encouraging and challenging for my perspective.”