Churches mark the beginning of the Polish EU Presidency
On Sunday 3 July 2011, around 250 worshippers attended an ecumenical worship service in Warsaw marking the beginning of the Polish EU Presidency. Bishops and priests from all denominations in Poland as well as many high-ranking government representatives and guests from Ukraine, Hungary and Germany attended the service which was organized by the Polish Ecumenical Council and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Poland.
In his sermon, Bishop Jerzy Samiec (Lutheran) painted a picture of a Europe in solidarity; a Europe in which people can remain faithful to their own identity and are respectful to the identity of others . The Bishop stressed that: The churches, “ being called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, have a strong responsibility and commitment to accompany the Polish government in its attempts to lead the European Union for the next six months”.
In affirming the “Biblical motif” of the worship, a delegation of the Hungarian Ecumenical Council presented to the Polish Churches a candle picturing a European map and salt.
The Hungarian Churches have accompanied the Hungarian EU Presidency during the last six months. Earlier last week, the Hungarian churches met with the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban to assess the Hungarian EU Presidency. The Hungarian Prime Minister commended the churches´ work, especially with regard to the newly adopted EU Roma Strategy, their social commitment and their efforts towards reconciliation, especially with the eastern neighbours.
The worship service in Warsaw was followed by a panel discussion, which outlined the priorities and the planned activities of the churches in relation to the Polish EU Presidency. Along with church representatives, participants in the panel discussions included the Polish Secretary of State Tomasz Siemoniak, Secretary of State Gergely Pröhle from Hungary and the former German Foreign Minister Markus Meckel.
The panel agreed that Europe must become more and more a Europe of the people and not just of institutions. A special emphasis of the consecutive EU Presidencies of Hungary and Poland has been and is to continue on the relationship to the eastern European non EU neighbours. The churches in Poland, being engaged in a long-standing reconciliation project, will have much to contribute to the Eastern European Partnership Summit, planned by the Polish EU Presidency for October 2011.
In addition, the Polish churches want to emphasize environmental issues, the protection of a work-free Sunday, volunteering and a multi-cultural and multi-religious Poland in the next six months.