The Jesuit European Office – OCIPE
Those in the Ignatian tradition have always inserted themselves in different societies and cultures. The Jesuit European Office, OCIPE, was founded in 1956, at the request of Monseigneur Weber, the Archbishop of Strasbourg.
In 2006 OCIPE is present in Brussels, Budapest and Warsaw, with an antenna in Strasbourg.
OCIPE seeks to accompany the construction of Europe: in serving its personnel in their professional and spiritual discernment, in sustaining critical reflection from the perspective of Christian faith on European values and responsibilities, and in promoting Europe’s solidarity internally and with the wider world.
1. Foundations of OCIPE’s work
1.1 Theological Premise
1.1.1 The Church’s social mission derives from the belief that God has created human beings not as separate individuals, but as persons always and essentially in relationship, called to unity. Solidarity (which entails justice and social inclusion) is the fundamental moral imperative that flows from the communal character of human life.
1.1.2 The Church’s specifically political mission derives from the conviction that the quality of human life is profoundly affected in the political arena. Commitment in this arena is therefore integral to the mission of Christ, who empowers his followers to practise that universal love of neighbour which is expressed as the search for social justice. The Church understands this universal love to require a preferential option for the poor.
1.2 Jesuit International Mission: Faith doing justice
1.2.1 The mission of social justice requires continuous discernment, intellectual analysis, spirituality, and active engagement.
1.2.2 In 1995 the Society of Jesus stressed ‘a new dimension of justice’, which implies the ‘growing consciousness of the interdependence of all peoples in one common heritage’; and it vowed ‘to collaborate with other national and international groups . . . for a more just international order’. The Society emphasises that this interdependence extends to the whole creation. Jesuits and their collaborators are called to hold together the service of faith, the promotion of justice, the entry into cultures, and the openness to other religious experiences.
1.2.3 The mission of the Society of Jesus in Europe transcends the work of single provinces. The shared European Jesuit works, OCIPE among them, manifest inter-provincial collaboration.
1.3 Commitment to the European project
OCIPE views the European project as one of peace, reconciliation, solidarity and freedom: these values have been expressed and in part realised through the historical development of the Council of Europe and the European Union, bodies which have consistently promoted peace within and outside Europe, and have brought together very diverse nations and cultures. The values inherent in this process of convergence and mutual respect are the core of the heritage that underlies the work of OCIPE. But European unity is a project always at risk. The ‘signs’ may always become ‘counter signs’ since every genuine value can be distorted or travestied. At this juncture between sign and counter sign, promise and its abandonment, the Church must witness.
2 Priorities of OCIPE’s work
From the above foundations OCIPE derives the following priorities:
2.1 The continued development of a ‘European consciousness’
The growth and development of the European project, and the search for its adequate spiritual, moral political and legal foundations, calls OCIPE to share in the discussion and exploration of the fundamental vision behind the European construction. This vision must embrace Europe across its entire cultural and geographical range , and OCIPE – with offices in different parts of Europe – will pay special attention to candidate countries and neighbours of the EU. This work is done with Catholic and ecumenical partners, where possible in a context of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
2.2 Justice and Solidarity within Europe and between Europe and other continents, especially Africa
2.2.1 The multi-dimensional concept of solidarity is a foundational concept in Catholic social thought, and is prominent in the European Union’s own self-image. It will serve as a unifying factor for OCIPE’s work, and as a criterion for discerning its future engagements.
2.2.2 It is a formidable challenge to remain faithful to the solidarity to which the European projects commit themselves. The competitive self-interest of states and groups of states, e.g. the European Union, remains dominant in several spheres, to the detriment of weaker states and regions. Solidarity applies to the whole European project, ‘ad intra’ and ‘ad extra’.
2.2.3 Africa is today a high priority for the international social apostolate of the Society of Jesus. OCIPE will put its locations and its presence to the European project and its institutions at the service of this apostolate.
3 Those whom OCIPE serves
3.1 Jesuit and other Catholic networks and institutions with a direct concern for social justice, in and beyond Europe
OCIPE can only be effective by co-operating with the personnel of such institutions, offering its services to them and drawing on their own expertise and networks. In Brussels, OCIPE maintains a special partnership with COMECE.
3.2 Christian and other institutions that share this concern
OCIPE works with partners within and beyond the Christian community to enrich their work and its own.
3.3 Politicians, representatives and officials engaged in constructing the future of Europe
OCIPE’s work is one of relationship and dialogue, as well as advocacy about issues.
3.4 The general public interested in European questions
OCIPE welcomes a variety of groups and individuals and reflects with them: civil society organisations, members of religious congregations, overseas visitors, etc.
4 OCIPE’s way of proceeding
through study, research, analysis and communication, especially from the perspective of the oppressed and marginalised, within the framework of the Church’s social thought and reflecting the apostolic endeavours of the Society of Jesus. The different offices will seek to share effectively their reflection and the results of their work.
4.2 Personal contacts and relationships
4.2.1 with officials and decision-makers at all levels, helping them to integrate their professional tasks with the ideals of justice and peace; and stimulating those who are Christian to grow in the faith that does justice; assisting people to a deeper sense of what it could mean to ‘belong to Europe’.
4.2.2 where appropriate, enriching these contacts with Ignatian practices helpful for their personal and professional lives, and sharing with them the gift of discernment.
with those, in the Ignatian family and beyond, who can enhance or challenge the perspective of the European institutions, or who can give authentic voice to those in need. OCIPE aims to bring together decision makers, experts, and people working in the field.
image credits: artM, barunpatro, Elaine Rudolphi