Marie Hélѐne Halligon, OLCGS, RENATE representative at the Conference of INGOs at the Council of Europe, was one of 15 people included in a Zoom Conference with H.E. CARDINAL PAROLIN and the CINGOs, Thursday 12 November 2020.
Cardinal Parolin reiterated the Holy Father’s special attention and gratitude for the CoINGOs participation in the activities of the Council of Europe and for their action and Christian witness.
Full text below.
1. Welcoming Cardinal Pietro Parolin to the videoconference with the Catholic-inspired INGOs accredited to the Council of Europe.
Thursday 12 November – 4.30 pm
“Eminence, I would first like to express my deep and sincere thanks for the time you are devoting to our grouping of INGOs of Catholic inspiration, accredited to the Council of Europe. I have already mentioned several times with you the existence of this regional coordination of the World Forum and the work we humbly carry out. For many years now, about fifteen Catholic INGOs of Catholic inspiration have been meeting in Strasbourg, on each session of the Conference of INGOs.
For us, this is a useful moment of consultation to better live and assume our presence as baptized “lay faithful” at the heart of International Institutions. We share together to better understand each other and to base our actions or positions on the Gospel and on the social thought of the Church, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Vatican Council II encourages us in ‘Lumen Gentium’ by declaring: “Every lay person must be before the world a witness of the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a sign of the living God. All together and each one for his part must nourish the world with the spiritual fruits (cf. Gal 5:22) and pour out upon it that spirit which animates the poor, the meek, the peacemakers whom the Lord in the Gospel has proclaimed blessed (cf. Mt 5:3-9). In a word, what the soul is in the body, Christians must be in the world. (38)
This is what we try to live by contributing to the mission of the Council of Europe, which promotes the defense of Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, but also by formulating opinions in the fields of education, solidarity, migration, justice and peace . We seek to be present within the Conference of INGOs, but also among Council officials, Parliamentarians, and other actors of the institution, in multiple forms.
The existence of the World Forum of INGOs of Catholic inspiration, which met a year ago in Rome and continues to work in thematic groups, is of great importance to us. The document “Towards a More Inclusive Society”, based on our experiences, has even been sent to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and to some high-ranking officials. This document should give rise to a day of animation/training in 2021. We hope that this will contribute to a more positive consideration of the religious fact during some of the work of the Conference of INGOs at the Council of Europe.
It seems important to me to note also one of the particularities of our work in Strasbourg: the strong and regular link with ecumenical INGOs such as the “Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture” and the Conference of European Churches. We are incredibly happy to be able to live this collaboration. Before giving you the floor, Eminence, I would like to emphasize how much the presence at our side of the Permanent Observers of the Holy See is appreciated by each of our organizations: exchanges, advice, collaboration, listening or regular welcome at the Eucharist on Tuesday morning are very precious to us. I would therefore like to express our thanks to Bishop Giordano, Bishop Rudelli and Bishop Ganci, because it is an honor and a pleasure to find such warm support from them!
Welcome among us, Eminence!
Coordinator of the Group of INGOs of Catholic inspiration – CoE Strasbourg
Welcome message to H.Em. Card. Parolin on his meeting with NGOs
Thursday, November 12, 2020 –
It is with great joy that I take the liberty of addressing these few words of welcome to all of you, even if in a virtual way, especially to His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, who today, after a long morning of meetings with the Authorities of the Council of Europe, is now with us to meet with you, the representatives of the Catholic-inspired NGOs working here in Strasbourg.
I do not think I am revealing any secret when I say that His Eminence wanted to maintain this meeting with great determination and firmness, even though it is being held by videoconference. This meeting could well have been cancelled because of the health situation and everyone would have understood the reasons. I believe, therefore, that this is a clear sign to make you understand how much His Eminence cares about your generous work, which is for the good of the whole Church and of each human person that you serve through your work.
Allow me also to thank dear Daniel Guéry, who coordinates this NGO Forum with passion, zeal and competence, and who, since my arrival in Strasbourg last year, has patiently introduced me to you in an atmosphere of serene and constructive cooperation. Thank you for organizing this meeting, with the technical support of Father Jean-François Bour.
Reaffirming the willingness of this Mission of the Holy See to continue working with each of you and for you, I now give the floor to Daniel.
Thank you, Your Eminence, thank you all.
Mgr Marco Ganci
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe
Then, Cl Parolin asked us to introduce ourselves in turn:
Sister Marie Hélène Halligon, olcgs:
Works against Trafficking and Exploitation for more than 20 years, in congregation, then as a member of the Collective against Trafficking, of the SOS Euro-Mediterranean Network and with RENATE since its foundation.
I oversee animating the fight against TEH in the Province France-Belgium-Netherlands-Hungary.
Episcopal Documents written: 1st on Prostitution, then 2nd on Trafficking and Exploitation to sensitize the bishops of France. (In cooperation with the Collectif Against Trafficking)
RENATE: European Network of Religious Sisters fighting against TEH. 31 member countries. Member of the Talitha Kum Network of the UISG.
In the light of evangelical values, to face the problem of Human Trafficking from all possible aspects
MEETING WITH CATHOLIC NGOS
Video Conference – November 12, 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of Catholic NGOs,
Allow me first to thank Mr. Daniel Guéry, coordinator of the Forum of Catholic-inspired NGOs working in Strasbourg, for the words he addressed to me at the beginning of this meeting.
Despite the impossibility of coming to Strasbourg, I asked to be able to meet with you, even if only by teleconference. I wished to reiterate the Holy Father’s special attention and gratitude for your participation in the activities of the Council of Europe, in which you occupy, with passion and dedication, a privileged place of action and Christian witness, in addition to the other responsibilities that you carry within the framework of your respective organizations.
I also thank you for your role, certainly unique within this European institution, and for the contribution that you offer, through your action, presence and experience, inspired by the Social Doctrine of the Church and the teachings of the Holy Father: you are precious, not only for this international organization, but also for the entire Church! Every Christian is asked to always act as a ‘true Christian’. To you who form the group of Catholic-inspired NGOs in Strasbourg, more may be asked of you because of the responsibility you assume to bear witness to human and evangelical brotherhood. You work, in fact, for the promotion of the human person in all its dimensions, putting it at the center of all your – and our – concerns. The recent health crisis linked to Covid-19 has shown that if we do not act in the search for the common good and the good of the person as such, the healthy values of Europe that we want to build together risk disappearing, giving way to divisions, selfishness, nationalism and the search for profit on the part of a single group, to the detriment of all the others.
To promote human fraternity All of you know the importance that His Holiness Pope Francis attaches to the fact that each person to whom you give help, both material and spiritual, should be able to perceive you not as ‘outsiders’ but as brothers and sisters who share the same condition of need, making it their own. The recent encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ presents this approach to human fraternity as a ‘way out’ of the present situation and future development. The text, which evokes many very topical issues, deserves an in-depth study in the light of your respective experiences and work. I invite you to do so. Christ Jesus not only assumed our sinful nature out of love; in him there is also a second movement: he took upon himself our infirmities and filled us with his riches. He gave us the Father and the Holy Spirit and made us his Body. Following the example of Christ, who took upon himself human misery and destroyed himself to enrich us, we too are called to take upon ourselves the sorrows and miseries of our neighbor. But we are also called to enrich him by recognizing his extremely high dignity as son and daughter of God. Moreover, we may be able to free a person from a material debt. But then that debt looks to the past. What, on the other hand, will be the present and future life of that same person? It would be of little use to free a person from the slavery of war, or the misery of yesterday’s hunger, if he or she later finds himself or herself in a new condition of war or poverty. In this, the action of a single organization is not enough.
There is another principle that comes into play. The communion of forces. In the Old Testament, God works with the great prophets, with the great Moses, the great Joshua, the great Judges, the great Wise Men. But this work remained isolated. In the New Testament, it is as a Body that we work, associating, calling, inviting. Christ Jesus called twelve Apostles and seventy-two disciples. The original Church is like a movement of faithful who evangelize every land and every region, in communion with others. And it is thanks to this that the Gospel spreads.
If each Catholic-inspired NGO were to join with other organizations that are guided by the same Gospel-inspired principles, it would be possible to draw a map of needs and identify the necessary resources. It would then be a matter of working in an “ecclesial symphony”. Communion is your strength. Where one is in need, he calls the other. Where one force struggles, everything becomes possible with the other forces. Today, the poverties of the world are many. Only the communion of forces, the work done with wisdom and intelligence, without seeking one’s own profit, will make it possible to find solutions for all. No NGO can bear effective witness to this ecclesial communion alone if it works in isolation. Isolation is poverty, even if it seems that it is possible to glean recognition and support. Communion, understanding the other’s point of view, sharing problems and experiences, mutual commitment, are always a richness. Coordinating, studying common projects, identifying specific actions, can only multiply the results. Thus, Pope Francis, receiving in audience the representatives of the Forum of Catholic NGOs last December 7, clearly indicated: “Collaboration in common projects makes the value of the works shine forth even more, because it highlights something that is connatural to the Church, to her communion: to walk together in the same mission (synods) at the service of the common good, through ‘co-responsibility’ and the contribution of each one”.
In this sense, you have drawn up together a document on inclusion, which was presented at the last Forum of Catholic NGOs “Towards a more inclusive society”. In this document, key ideas, challenges, and positions adopted by Catholic NGOs on several themes were highlighted, from an anthropological perspective that puts the person at the center, following the transversal thread of inclusion. I am pleased to know that, in the framework of the Forum of Catholic NGOs in Strasbourg, you have decided to continue to reflect together on this document in your future meetings. Today, the invincible virus is acting alone, separating ourselves from others, believing that we can be better than others and avoiding any possible collaboration. The challenge, therefore, is to share the horizon of a global project that brings you closer, beyond the particularity of the project itself, while being aware that your action will also take on another dimension, spiritual and salvific, if it is carried out under the motion of the Spirit of the Incarnate Christ, who acts in each one of us and brings us closer to one another in his redemptive mission.
I am also pleased to see that the NGO Forum in Strasbourg is also open to other Christian NGOs. The relations that have been established between you for a long time, the common research that you carry out together and the positions that you take together are an excellent way of living ecumenism! I encourage you to continue with perseverance, keeping in mind that each of your actions must be done for the good of all. In this sense, I also invite you to strengthen the contacts you already have with the other regional platforms of the Forum of Catholic-inspired NGOs (in Geneva, Brussels, Paris, Rome). This link will be an enrichment for your reflection, your work, your interventions.
Your collaboration with the Permanent Mission of the Holy See in Strasbourg is also a sign of this ‘sensus Ecclesiae’: may it be ever more effective, real and concrete, in order to bear witness to a Church at the service of the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God. The Permanent Observer and his collaborators will always be ready to listen to you, to share with you on the evangelical principles necessary to face the challenges and concerns of the world, and of Europe. If you become true instruments of communion in the Holy Spirit, and nourish your personal spiritual growth, the fruits will be visible within your NGOs, the Council of Europe, and the whole world.
This is the wish I would like to express today. I will conclude by recalling the words of Pope Francis who decided to live his ministry by making himself my and your Good Samaritan, Good Samaritan of the whole world, but above all by showing with his life how truly, concretely, every man must be put back on his feet. This is what the Holy Father clearly indicated in the second chapter of his Encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’. Pope Francis has confidence in your works. He asks you too to have confidence in yourselves, to believe that by serving the poor and the rejected of the earth, even in the noble context of the Council of Europe, you are serving Christ the Lord. We know that he who consumes his life for Christ will obtain all his life in the eternal Kingdom.
With this hope, I greet and thank you.
H.E. Card Pietro Parolin