WARSAW (RNS/ENInews) — Roman Catholic bishops from across Europe have set up an organization to defend the rights of Christians and monitor prejudice across the continent.
“Our first task will be to provide people around Europe with objective and reliable data about the anti-Christian discrimination which is taking place,” Thierry Bonaventura, media officer of the Council of Catholic Episcopates of Europe (CCEE), told ENInews.
“But we also want to encourage local church groups to be involved and take concrete steps against intolerance, such as by presenting reports to the United Nations and the Council of Europe, and encouraging them to take appropriate measures,” he added.
Bonaventura was speaking after the formation of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination, headed in Vienna by Bishop Andras Veres of Hungary, and Austrian lay director, Gudrun Kugler.
The decision to set up the body had been made in 2009 by the CCEE, which is based in Switzerland and includes bishops conferences from 33 countries and Monaco and Cyprus.
“The cases we highlight will involve Christians throughout Europe, so the scope of the organization will be ecumenical,” Bonaventura told ENInews. “For now, though, it’s a Catholic initiative, involving the CCEE and Catholic groups.”
The CCEE said the new group would work autonomously but also enjoy support from local church leaders, especially in collecting data on anti-Christian acts.
“The cases of Christians who suffer some form of discrimination have seen a rapid increase in recent years in Europe. Although this often happens in a hidden manner, the discrimination is all too real,” the statement added.
“The aim is to awaken public opinion to what is happening, so that such situations do not become habitual and run the risk of degenerating into real hatred.”
The new group dovetails with a concerted push by Pope Benedict XVI to reclaim Europe’s Christian heritage. The CCEE’s president, Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, said the new group would help promote a society that is “more respectful of religious freedom, and more capable of understanding and accepting its own roots.”
“Europe needs God. It needs to remember its own roots and thus look to the future with realism and hope,” Erdo said. “The situation is often not easy for Christians, who seek to bear witness with their lives to the faith and hope that is in them, through a lifestyle that becomes a challenge for others.”
— Jonathan Luxmoore
© 2010 Religion News Service. Used with permission.
Posted Oct. 18, 2010