Mariano Crociata, bishop of Latina, has been elected to lead the bishops of Europe and build bridges between the Church and the EU.
The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) elected a new president on Wednesday. Mariano Crociata, Bishop of Latina, Italy, who was the First-Vice President in the previous term, will hold the office from 2023 to 2028.
Speaking at the election, Bishop Crociata, 70, called his term a “crucial time for Europe” and the Church, calling on the clergy and faithful alike for unity and solidarity in the face of social transition. According to the COMECE website, the prelate said:
“I am particularly referring to the need for a just and sustainable recovery from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure leaving no one behind, as well as renewing the vocation of the European Union to be a source of development and a promise of peace for our beloved continent and the world.”
In the same election, four new vice presidents of the conference were also selected. These hail from France, Portugal, Lithuania, and the Nordic Bishop’s Conference. Archbishop Antoine Hérouard, of France, will serve as the First Vice-president in the new term.
The newly minted president and all EU Bishop delegates were received in Rome on Thursday for an audience with Pope Francis. The Pontiff welcomed the results of the election and called on all present to maintain “the two great dreams of Europe’s founding fathers: the dream of unity and the dream of peace.”
According to the Vatican, Pope Francis noted that after WWII, Europe experienced the longest period of peace in history, before he lamented the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He said:
“This challenge is very complex, because the countries of the European Union are involved in multiple alliances, interests, strategies, a series of forces that it is difficult to make converge in a single project. However, one principle should be shared by all, clearly and with determination: War cannot and must not be considered as a solution to conflicts.”
The Pope went on to reflect on changes in European culture since the founding of the European Union. He noted that it is important to train people who can “read the signs of the times” to properly interpret the “European project” in modern times.
Furthermore, he reminded the bishops in attendance of their responsibility to be “a bridge between the Churches in Europe and the institutions of the Union.”
“You are by mission builders of relations, of encounter, of dialogue. And this is already working for peace. But it is not enough,” Pope Francis said. “It takes prophecy, it takes foresight, it takes creativity to advance the cause of peace. Both architects and craftsmen are needed in this building site; but I would say that the true builder of peace must be both architect and craftsman.”