Vatican City, 10 December (RV) The Vatican today presented to the public the upcoming 3rd edition of the European Catholic Social Days, which will take place in Bratislava from 17 to 20 March 2022. On behalf of the organisers and as a representative of the host city, spoke Mons. Stanislav Zvolenský, President of the Slovak Bishops' Conference.
The event is organised by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) and the Bishops' Conference of Slovakia (KBS). It will be held in cooperation with the Vatican's Dicastery for Integral Human Development. By choosing the theme, the organisers are responding to the situation in Europe, reeling from the pandemic. The title of the event is: "Europe beyond the pandemic: a new beginning" (with the subtitle: "European societies in transition: a Christian contribution to solidarity and social justice").
According to Msgr. Stanislav Zvolenský, the programme of the 3rd edition of the European Catholic Social Days will begin on 17 March with a joint celebration in St. Martin's Cathedral and a reception in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which will be the venue for the event.
Over the next few days, around 300 participants will reflect and discuss the three main transitions that characterise Europe at this historical moment: the first is the demographic transition linked to family life, the second is the technological and digital transition, and the third is the ecological transition.
"I express my gratitude that Slovakia and our Episcopal Conference will have the opportunity to participate in the realization of this event; we hope that it will be received with interest, in person or online, according to the circumstances and possibilities that will exist in March 2022," said the President of the Slovak Bishops’Conference.
At the beginning of the press conference, which was held with the possibility of connecting journalists remotely, spoke the Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Card. Peter Turkson. He pointed to Pope Francis' emphasis on strengthening "social fraternity" based on spiritual values, among which love is foremost. This is a condition for the holistic development of the human person, said Card. Turkson.
The President of the CCEE, Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, spoke about the current challenges for the Church in Europe, undergoing transformations, which will also be the focus of reflection at the upcoming event in Bratislava. Let us recall that the tradition of the European Catholic Social Days began in 2009 in Gdansk, Poland, with a broad thematic focus (solidarity as a fundamental value of the EU, the human person and his or her rights, families in Europe, the European socio-economic model, the global common good, solidarity towards future generations and the EU's role in protecting the environment). In 2014, the second edition in Madrid focused on "The fate of Christianity and the future of Europe".
After Mons. Grušas, the President of the Slovak Bishops’ Conference Mons. Stanislav Zvolenský gave his address. He presented the programme of the event, from 17 to 20 March 2022 in Bratislava and also its logo, which depicts St. Martin sharing his cloak with the beggar, in which Jesus was personally present:
"The iconography of the logo recalls the figure of St. Martin of Tours and the medieval story of his conversion to Christianity after an encounter with a half-naked beggar on the outskirts of Amiens in northern France. Martin cut his cloak in half to share with the poor man, who appeared to him that night in a dream, in a vision, as Christ himself. St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of Bratislava, and the Cathedral of St. Martin in Bratislava is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava."
Mons. Zvolenský briefly presented the schedule and the names of the main speakers. He said that on the morning of Friday, March 18, the agenda includes an introductory analysis of the social challenges in contemporary Europe and an outline of a possible path of renewal. The socio-economic aspect of this analysis will be presented by Professor Cécile Renouard from Paris and the theological-anthropological aspect by Prof. Miloš Lichner from the Faculty of Theology, University of Trnava, Bratislava.
The afternoon will be devoted to the issue of demographic change and family life: the intention is to discuss the demographic decline and the growing disparities between rural and urban areas in Europe, as well as the place of the family - the basic unit of society - in this context.
The keynote speech will be given by Croatian politician Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Democracy and Demography. This will be followed by round tables and workshops. The working groups will consist of 10 to 30 participants with a moderator and a secretary. In the evening of the same day, an ecumenical prayer with the Sant'Egidio community is planned in Bratislava Cathedral.
On Saturday, March 19, the program will focus on technological and digital transformation and its ethical and anthropological implications. The question of how digitalization can help in the search for a life of dignity will also be a topic of reflection. The opening address will be delivered by Msgr. Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
In the afternoon, the programme will continue with the theme of ecological transformation: the focus will be on the urgent need for it and on the call to lead this transformation for the benefit of all people, according to the encyclical Laudato si'. The proposals for this third part of the discussion will be presented by Professor Alessandra Smerilli from the Holy See's Dicastery for Integral Human Development.
As on the preceding day, on 19 March both blocks of the programme will be complemented by round tables and structured workshops.
"On the last day of the programme, Sunday 20 March, we will gather together and evaluate the results of the individual workshops and discuss the conclusions in plenary," concluded the Archbishop of Bratislava in presenting the content of the 3rd edition of the European Catholic Social Days. Msgr. Zvolenský expressed his hope for a successful course of the event, the concrete form of which - attendance or remote participation - will still depend on the development of the pandemic situation.
The President of COMECE, the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich concluded by stressing the importance of the "Social Days" as an active contribution of Christians to the creation and future direction of Europe. He also underlined the importance of responsibility in this regard in his response to a question from the press about COMECE's recent prompt response to the controversial proposal for an internal directive of the European Commission on the non-use of expressions referring to the Christian religious context, which undoubtedly belongs to the historical and spiritual roots of Europe.