“Volunteer work involves millions of Christians in Europe and is a remarkable and pervasive activity, that can reach many poor and marginalized people living in our opulent societies, with a peculiar dynamism of love. […] We wish to express our closeness, encouraging support and gratitude to the Christians who engage in volunteer work, whether it is organized or spontaneous, structured or occasional.”
It is with this feeling of gratitude for the army of volunteers who daily bear witness to Christian love, which was included in the Plenary Assembly’s Final Message, that the Presidents of European Catholic Bishops’ Conferences wrapped up their annual gathering. This year’s plenary assembly took place in Poznań, Poland, from 13 to 16 September following an invitation by H.E. Msgr Stanisław Gądecki, Archbishop of Poznań, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, and Vice President of the CCEE.
The gathering took place in the homeland of the Holy Polish Pope, Saint John Paul II, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Poland’s regained independence – the “new birth” of the Polish State which, in the 18th century, used to be divided among neighboring empires. This venue was chosen to celebrate the 1050th anniversary of the first bishopric in Poland in Poznań, the first diocese of modern day Poland.
The bishops placed at the center of their reflection Europe’s Spirit of Solidarity: especially the role played by solidarity in the development of consciences and societies, solidarity among Nations in Europe and the mission of the Church. The meeting started with the presentation of the results of a European survey on volunteer work, promoted by the CCEE and conducted by the Bishops’ Conferences during the last few months. The survey was presented by Fr Wojciech Sadłoń SAC, member of the Statistical Institute of the Catholic Church in Poland (a summary of survey results is available in the CCEE website: www.ccee.eu).
During the meeting, the future programs of the CCEE Commissions were presented and approved. The bishops then listened to the reports of the ecclesial representatives who follow the activity of European Institutions, and showed their appreciation for the work carried out by the COMECE with the European Union, and by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See at the Council of Europe.
On Friday, September 14, the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences elected Fr Martin Michalíček Secretary General of the CCEE for a five-year term (2018-2022).
In Poznań, the European bishops had the opportunity to experience the caring and kind welcome of a community that is deeply attached to its own Christian roots. Polish society’s earnest attachment to its Christian heritage and culture was particularly evident also in the words spoken by the heads of Polish political institutions: Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiechi, who addressed the participants during the opening session, and the President of the Polish Republic Andrzej Duda, who met the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences on Saturday, September 15. Both events testified to the good relations between the Polish State and the Catholic Church.
Every day, a Mass was celebrated in churches crowded with faithful and at the presence of representatives of catechists, acolytes, people from different charitable institutions, and men and women religious. The gathering ended on Sunday, September 16, with a Eucharistic celebration in the Cathedral church of Poznań, which was broadcast live by TVP3 national television.