The French and German Bishops' Conferences have published a joint declaration marking the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty which was signed on 22 January 1963 by General Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to seal the reconciliation between the two opposing nations after the Second World War. On 8 July 1962, both heads of state attended a Mass of reconciliation in the French cathedral of Rheims.
The declaration stressed the friendship between the two peoples and, reflecting on the peace gained at such a high price, extended a call for understanding in facing Europe's present and future.
The text reads: "Simultaneously, the Elysee Treaty was the height of the reconciliation between the two enemy nations and the starting point for the deepening of friendly relations through political and social contact at all levels. As bishops, we warmly embrace everything gained in the signing of the 'Treaty of Friendship'. Today, Franco-German friendship seems obvious and neither politicians nor citizens have a feeling for the exceptional nature of these relations. And yet, the friendship between our two countries and peoples is now more important than ever for overcoming the current crisis and for shaping the future of Europe."
"The crisis has revealed irresponsible behaviour in various areas and has sorely tested the solidarity between the European countries. Solidarity and responsibility must be more closely connected to the future of Europe. In this regard, the Franco-German reconciliation remains an example of political responsibility and solidarity."
At the Mass of reconciliation in the cathedral of Rheims, Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle "symbolized the awareness that politics is built upon foundations that it cannot build itself. Love for one's enemies is a strong Gospel demand that the two statesmen were capable of carrying out. Since then, the European Union has brought peace and prosperity to its countries. With the economic crisis, however, we see that contempt and mistrust between the European nations are reappearing: the rejection of foreigners, the absence of solidarity. The global economy and the cultural and religious mixture have given rise to other enemies. All over Europe, populist movements advocating withdrawal into self interests are flourishing. The economic crisis reveals a moral crisis, where the meaning of life no longer forms part of relationship with others or the demands of justice."
France and Germany "can and must return to the history of their reconciliation and friendship in order to face the consequences of our current problems. We can also draw inspiration from the past in order to help the European Union establish long-term, solid political structures and an authentic social market economy. We must act to ensure that the respect for human dignity, the common good, and the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity always guide European integration."
The Church also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty as "an opportunity to recall, particularly for the youngest generations, that reconciliation is not an empty word but an actual path."