We wanted this meeting with you on the theme of Europe and, in particular, on what a European pastoral care could be for the diocese of Strasbourg.
The first reason is obvious: European capital, Strasbourg is the second French diplomatic city after Paris, and it shares with New York and Geneva to host many international institutions without being the capital of a State. Nearly 90 diplomatic representations are present there, permanent representations or consulates. The Holy See has its part and its place as an observer member of the Council of Europe. We forget that this vocation of Strasbourg does not begin with the Council of Europe in 1949 but it begins with the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine in 1815, which brings together 5 states bordering the Rhine and which is still present here.
This pastoral care with the Institutions holds a great place in our European pastoral care even if it cannot be reduced to that one.
The second reason comes from our history and our geography: talking about the borders of Alsace brings us back to a mobile geography and a complex history. Crossed by peoples and cultures for centuries, Alsace has forged a culture of encounter, land of the Empire marches, base of imposed diversity, sometimes confined behind the curtain of the Vosges and the bank of the Rhine or deployed like a bridge over the great river. Alsace, like Poland, knows how to make itself small without losing its identity: it is spontaneously open to these extremely diverse currents of humanity which still form the Europe of the XXI today.e century, Europe more composite than ever.
This pastoral care of our European culture forms the second part of our pastoral care towards Europe, it tends to preserve this living heritage suitable for welcoming all European peoples, of multiple cultures and religions.
The third reason is due to our social configuration: a border region, Alsace cultivates an impressive porosity. Many of our Alsatians cross the border, living here and working in Germany and Switzerland. The commercial exchanges are constant, the twinnings innumerable. The three bishops of these three countries meet regularly and there are many links between the theological faculties of the Upper Rhine, or binational associations such as the Cross-border Ecumenical Contact Group, ecumenical gatherings etc.
Naturally, socially, intellectually, spiritually Alsace is turned towards this great Rhine basin where it finds its strength and meaning. I can recall here the recent formation, on January 1, 2021, of the European Collectivity of Alsace which includes the two Alsatian departments: only the European character of Alsace was able to convince our French parliamentarians to create this administrative exception.
Dear Eminence, you have in front of you active members of the diocesan platform for European pastoral care, “at the service of Europe”, a place of reflection but also of formation and initiatives to build, at our small level, Europe as that our popes have been offering it for sixty years.