A meeting of the presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Central and Eastern Europe was held in Budapest on 24-25 October 2022. The event was attended, among others, by Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), András Veres, president of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Mario Grech, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Apostolic Nuncio Michael Wallace Banach, and the members of the Permanent Council of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference: Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Archbishop György Udvardy of Veszprém and Bishop János Székely of Szombathely, as well as the presidents and representatives of the Bishops’ Conferences of Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the International Bishops’ Conference of Saint Cyril and Methodius including Serbia and other states.
The central theme of the two-day meeting was peace. In his welcome address, András Veres, bishop of Győr reiterated the thoughts of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council to the participants of the conference: "Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies; nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called an enterprise of justice (Is 32:17).” The president of the HCBC also recalled that the angels announced the birth of the Saviour to the shepherds by proclaiming peace: “Glory to God in the highest heaven peace on earth and goodwill to all men.” So peace is possible where people welcome Jesus, the peacemaker, and where people’s hearts of goodwill are opened to others.
Nuncio Michael Wallace Banach spoke about the Church’s love of peace and its consequent efforts to embrace all dimensions of peace, and then asked the question: Church, what are you doing for peace? Pope Francis’ representative in Hungary stressed that this question must be echoed in our hearts, especially when it comes to the peaceful conclusion of the war in Ukraine.
Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius said we should pray for peace to be restored in Ukraine. He urged that through our prayers we must all find the path within ourselves that leads to peace for our countries and for Europe.
On Monday evening, the participants of the conference attended a joint Holy Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Right in Saint Stephen’s Basilica, with Cardinal Péter Erdő as the principal celebrant.
Cardinal Mario Grech also stressed the importance of peace in his speech, and then described the process by which the Church seeks to listen to the people of God. The two-day conference also featured lectures by Prof. Balázs Schanda, head of the Department of Constitutional Law at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Prof. Lóránd Újházi, head of the Postgraduate Institute of Canon Law at Pázmány Péter Catholic University and Ágnes Hornung, state secretary for families.
At the invitation of the president of Hungary, Katalin Novák, the meeting ended at the Sándor Palace, where the president welcomed the participants of the conference over lunch.