Mr José Manuel Durão Barroso Esq
Prot. no 5933/2634
Athens, October 13, 2011
HE The President of the European Commission
Mr José Manuel Durão Barroso Esq.
Cc : HE The President of the European Council
Mr Herman Van Rompuy Esq.
HE The President of the European Parliament
Mr Jerzy Buzek Esq.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love;
in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10)
Your Excellence Mr President,
We communicate with you today, within the framework of the “open, transparent and regular dialogue” that is stipulated in Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty, which, within the context of democratic development, enables the Churches to articulate their discourse on subjects concerning European citizens. Besides, democracy is not appreciated only in the freedom and movement of political ideas but also in the dialogue between cultures, social strata and groups.
Throughout the history of the entire human race, Europe, and in particular the European Union of the 27 member states, soon to be 28 with the integration of Croatia, was a source of inspiration by its spiritual forces, putting forward an invaluable social model of worldwide caliber for the coexistence of peoples. Today, however, the modern European civilization is going through a new crisis, which we may call a crisis of reliability of politics and of political persons, a crisis of confidence on the part of citizens vis-à-vis institutions, and indeed European institutions. The causes reported are numerous, ranging from the erosion of the family and of individual rights, and consumerism, to economic liberalism and income inequality.
As a matter of fact, it should not escape our attention that the Greek people but also many other European citizens turn with great anxiety to governments and to Church leaders, acknowledging that, to the extent to which it falls upon us, we too bear responsibility for the current crisis. Lack of transparency, easy profit, disregard for institutions, hubris and disrespect for the state and for the law, inconsiderate revendications, have now sadly become part of today’s society.
The Orthodox Church of Greece has been keeping a watchful eye on these global developments. We turn our attention and our thought to today’s crisis, in the awareness that no worship gathering or religious community can exist if it does not minister man above all, this image of God, irrespective of gender, age, religion, nationality or any other particularity within the multicultural environment of Europe par excellence, where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). Christianity, like any other religious community, cannot turn a blind eye to the huge problems of the whole of mankind, which are not solely financial or political, but first and foremost of ethical nature, because of the multiple ethical dilemmas constantly raised by the complexity of today’s economic state of affairs worldwide. And by using the term “ethical” we have specifically in mind the right of every European citizen to work and to honest human activity, respect for the human person, the importance of interpersonal relationships, responsibility towards others, and the course of the entire European society.
The Greek people is a proud people which has greatly contributed to European progress. Today it is put to sacrifices; its history is put in doubt; its partners reserve themselves against Greece and the Greek people itself. It is difficult to grasp the intensity of the feeling of drowning that has taken over the majority of our fellow citizens. Indeed, who could have imagined that the great Greek people, who contributed its civilization to the evolution of Europe, would today be defamed the world over?
Faced with the economic crisis our Church cannot tolerate any kind of default, but primarily does not forgive the default of human values; it cannot accept any kind of bankruptcy, but primarily cannot remain blind to the bankruptcy of human dignity. The very statutory documents of the Union stress the fact that “the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, …” (Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty). Therefore, we cannot hope for a society where social justice does not prevail. Man, and the European citizen in particular, cannot be seen by the managers of the economic crisis as an accounting figure. It would be a scandal if European leaders did not take the cries of simple citizens into account and if these very citizens of Europe were threatened like expendable products. The result of all this is the increase of agony, of despair, of the shrinking of national sovereignty, of the splitting of the family, of the complete isolation of the most vulnerable social groups (the disabled, immigrants, senior citizens, etc.), the spread of fear and eventually the creation of a society with no moral rules. As a Church, we cannot accept this social model. We cannot accept the alteration of our European acquis by the adoption of the rules of impersonal financial markets and credit rating agencies. This situation is leading us to the utter shattering of social cohesion by excluding any form of convergence towards the European vision of our founding fathers.
Your Excellency Mr President,
In your recent annual State of the Union Address before the European Parliament (Strasbourg, 28.09.2011) you emphasized the fact that Europe can have a future if we rebuild confidence, stability, growth and political willingness. We agree with you. However, something more is needed. An insight deep into our spiritual heritage is indispensable (“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle”, 2 Thessalonians 2:15), so that a new prioritization of values may arise, with the aim of stressing the need for solidarity, non-abandonment of the European vision and the imperative to turn the economic Union to an unalloyedly political one. Today’s questions should be focused on the inner and outer solidarity of the European Union. Only in this manner is it possible to overcome the existing cultural differences and to create a common space of confidence and solidarity, so that “bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
We are aware of the sensitivity of the European Commission to education issues, reflected in the substantial increases of the respective Budget funds for 2014-2020. We believe that all European institutions would do well to turn to the education of European citizens and indeed of the young, by supporting specific projects aiming at the modification of today’s way of life and at the creation of a society of persons and of solidarity, as these are set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and more specifically in its Chapter “On Solidarity” (Articles 27-38 of the Lisbon Treaty). We would like an education that will help us achieve the shift from the imprudent “nouveau-riche” mentality to a decent austerity and to contentment with little; to the adoption of a new economic anthropology which will not be founded upon consumption but upon the Christian principle of “nothing needful”, in a society that will be based not upon competition and rivalry but upon the coexistence of citizens of Europe. We would like our common home of Europe to be more like a family which understands the difficulties of its members and does not sentence them to isolation (“a new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”, John 13:34). In this endeavor you will find us by your side. Both in the recent past and today the Church of Greece has contributed through many efforts to the success of the European vision. Our presence in Brussels through our Representation confirms our will to persevere with these efforts.
All the above is not merely a cry of denunciation serving only temporary detonation but at the same time intensifying polarization and division. It is the expression of our personal anxieties and, we believe, of the anxieties of all citizens of Europe. The unity of Europe is the desideratum. We do not wish simply to cure or even merely to prevent any conceivable violent developments in European societies, but mainly to help check human disrespect and the absurdity of a new social model which has nothing in common with the history of Europe. The crisis threatening the entire mankind necessitates a lucid diagnosis. The cure of this unprecedented crisis which we are living today requires not only a systematic approach with social sensitivity and a sense of justice and the rule of law, but also a reinforcement of ethical antibodies so that the results of the cure may not be merely temporary. We believe that this crisis may constitute the dawn of a better and more humane Europe, which will not deal exclusively with budget figures and bonds, but will respect human values, for which both your predecessors and you personally have striven (“but he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”, Matthew 4:4).