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Church leaders meet Irish EU presidency

By editor - 21 March, 2013

Irishman COMECE General Secretary, Fr Patrick Daly (pictured), led a delegation of church representatives from Ireland and Europe to meet the Irish EU Presidency in Dublin. Fr Daly became the second ever Irish priest to hold the prestigious position at COMECE, the previous Irish leader was Bishop Noel Treanor. 61-year-old Fr Daly was based in Birmingham  when he was appointed to the post in November 2012, he had attended school in Sligo and later Clongowes Wood.

He and the delegation of church representatives from across Ireland and Europe met with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Government buildings. This is one of the regular meetings between churches and EU Presidencies and was organised by the Irish Council of Churches on behalf of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

The churches questioned the sense in economic austerity without including measures for social cohesion. They suggested that efforts aimed at the eradication of structural poverty and inequality should all be considered when measuring economic progress. European economic governance needs to be balanced by a social dimension, they stated.

The delegation said that the consequences of the severe economic crisis in the European Union were evident in the parishes of all of the churches and a key concern at local, regional and national level. The Irish churches were particularly concerned about the impact of austerity on present and future generations and on the most vulnerable in society.

While acknowledging that employment and the creation of jobs in Europe was one of the main requirements to overcome the crisis, the churches highlighted the increased numbers of working poor. They urged that a common weekly day of rest, which they described as being a clear and visible sign for the reconciliation of personal, family and professional life, be included in the revision of the working time directive.

They also called for greater participation of civil society, social partners and social actors in shaping the National Reform Programs, the National Social Reports and the Country Specific Recommendations.

The delegation stressed that development aid continues to transform lives and highlighted the importance of EU member states recommitting to meeting overseas development aid targets by 2015. However, the churches spoke of the need to use aid to work towards a situation where countries no longer need aid. To reach that point revenue authorities in developing countries need to be able to collect the correct amount of tax from multinational companies operating in their jurisdiction. Strengthening the capacity of revenue authorities in these countries is important, but tackling the accounting rules and financial regulations that enable this to happen is crucial, the group said.
The delegation members included:
. Archbishop Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland (Anglican) Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland.
.Rev Fr Godfrey O’Donnell, President of the Irish Council of Churches and Chair of Orthodox Network of Churches.
.Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne.
.Ms Gillian Kingston, Lay Leader of the Methodist Church in Ireland.
.Dr Nicola Rooney, Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Episcopal Conference.
.Dr Kenneth Milne, Coordinator of European Engagement group, Irish Council of Churches/Irish Inter Church Meeting.. .Mervyn McCullagh, Executive Officer, Irish Council of Churches/Irish Inter Church Meeting.
.Rev Frank-Dieter Fischbach, Executive Secretary of CEC-Church and Society Commission.
.Fr Patrick Daly, General Secretary of COMECE.
.Michael Kuhn, Vice General Secretary of COMECE.

-The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 125 Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant, and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, and of 40 associated organisations.
-COMECE is the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. It is made up of Bishops delegated by the 26 Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union and it has a permanent Secretariat in Brussels.

-The Irish Council of Churches and the Irish Inter Church Meeting develop and provide a voice for Ireland’s Churches to connect through a common belief in Christ.

By Ann Marie Foley