Churches become official dialogue partners for the EU

Today, Dec 1, 2009, the Lisbon Treaty enters into force. In addition to institutional reform, it introduces into EU primary law an article of notable importance for churches and religious societies. By means of Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, it recognizes the specific contribution of churches and engages on this basis an "open, transparent and regular" dialogue with them.
Published: 1. 12. 2009 16:45

Brussels (B): "The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States," reads the Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (pdf, 1.38 MB) in its first paragraph. It then continues: "The Union equally respects the status under national law of philosophical and non-confessional organizations. Recognizing their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organizations."

Thanks to this article, churches and religious communities will be able to strengthen their dialogue with European institutions and so contribute more efficiently to reflecting on European policy. In its statement released today, the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) gives several urgent challenges that preoccupy both the EU and the churches, namely: the promotion of the dignity of every human being, solidarity with the weakest members of the society, an economy which puts the human being at its heart, solidarity among generations and towards developing countries, climate change and preservation of creation, the welcoming of migrants and intercultural dialogue.

"The Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union binds its institutions not only to respect free activities of churches, but also to engage in a dialogue when seeking answers and solutions for many fundamental and urgent questions," says Bishop Vaclav Maly, auxiliary of Prague and delegate of the Czech Bishops' Conference for the COMECE. It is an opportunity for churches, he continues, "to prove the legitimacy and topicality of the Gospel as an inspiration for basic moral and social attitudes. It is good that people involved in negotiating the Treaty realized that churches are not a relic of past times, but living communities of those who draw the attention of European citizens to their spiritual and cultural roots," says Bishop Maly.

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