Annual Meeting for Intercultural and Religious Dialogue of the European People's Party in Vienna

More+Events ♦ Published: December 11, 2022; 23:47 ♦ (Vindobona)

The annual meeting of the Working Group on Intercultural and Religious Dialogue of the European People's Party (EPP) parliamentary group in the European Parliament took place this weekend in Vienna. Without religions and their contribution to the formation of values, a future for Europe is unimaginable, according to the EPP.

Karas affirmed that without interreligious dialogue, no democratic majorities are possible for a prosperous future in Europe. / Picture: © Besseres Europa / Othmar Karas

Karas lamented that the Union's foundation of values had been shaken by the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. Societies were increasingly divided, he said, and religious communities were also regrettably involved in this. The ÖVP politician referred to the inglorious role of Moscow Patriarch Cyrill as a representative of a church that allowed itself to be instrumentalized by Putin. This in particular should be an incentive to strengthen interreligious dialogue - as the European People's Party is doing in Vienna for the 24th time.

Karas, who as Vice-President of the EU Parliament is entrusted with the implementation of Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which provides for a legal obligation for an open, transparent and regular dialogue of the EU with religious communities, acknowledged the importance of interreligious dialogue in his introduction. Without it, he said, there would be no democratic majorities for a prosperous future for Europe. Religion, origin and language are essential elements to implement the EU's claim to be "united in diversity". Karas condemned any policy that seeks to distinguish itself by accusingly pointing the finger at religion.

The representative of the Catholic Church on the podium, COMECE Secretary General Prieto, quoted from a speech by the Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, Archbishop Aldo Giordano, who died about a year ago, according to which the question of God is a crucial one for the future of the continent. Without transcendence, there is a threat of "anarchic pluralism" in which man sets himself absolute. Faith in God, on the other hand, is in contradiction to authoritarian regimes. And as a common obligation for the religious communities, Prieto named that of acting as "peacemakers" and thus concretizing the "unique mediator role of Europe" in the conflict of competing world powers. A credible commitment to peace and reconciliation would also inspire young people anew for the Union, the COMECE representative was convinced.

In his statement, Rabbi Hofmeister warned against the tendency of right-wing populist movements and parties to present themselves as defenders of the Judeo-Christian heritage. He said that it should not be forgotten that there has always been persecution of Judaism on the basis of these ideas. Now it is primarily Muslims who are being turned into objects of exclusion. The religious communities in Europe had learned to meet each other face to face after a long history "written in blood and tears," Hofmeister said. Now, he said, a new phase of dialogue is necessary: it is necessary to stand "side by side" against a politics and economy that acts without a religious value basis, stirs up nationalistic egoism and loses people's trust in the process.

Parallel IS-Russian Church

Imam Pallavicini, who works in Brussels as a representative of Muslims in 22 countries, drew a parallel between the alleged "holy war" of the IS terrorists and that justified by Russian Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Both represent a demonization of tolerance and pluralism, which contradicts the actual value foundation of the religions. The Muslim cleric saw the claim for the religions to follow a vision in the spirit of the EU founding figures Schuman, Degasperi and Adenauer, which must show itself in cooperation and cohesion. Pallavicini turned against phenomena hostile to dialogue such as ghettoization, the - often hidden - assumption of one's own superiority, relativism and an aggressive secularism. He had contradicted Patriarch Cyril in a letter to the Patriarchate in Moscow, according to which there are no values "in the West" and the Russian East must uphold them.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis) of Vienna, Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and Jorgen Skov Sorensen, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), also spoke.

The list of speakers included Vienna pastoral theologian Prof. Regina Polak, the president of the International Catholic Legislators Network (ICLN) and rector of the Catholic University ITI, Christiaan Alting of Geusau, and Archimandrite Aimilianos Bogiannou, director of the Brussels Office of the Orthodox Churches at the EU. Saturday will be devoted to the influence of churches and religions on social and political processes.

A visit of the conference participants to Klosterneuburg Abbey was also on the program, as well as a joint church service in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, presided over by Bishops' Conference Secretary General Peter Schipka.