In January 2012, the Jesuit European Office (OCIPE in Brussels) became the Jesuit European Social Centres (JESC). OCIPE had centres in Brussels, Budapest, Strasbourg and Warsaw. Whereas OCIPE in Strasbourg will remain, the offices in Budapest and Warsaw are now social centres of their respective provinces.

JESC is a separate apostolic and legal entity within the Conference of European Provincials. Through JESC, the Society of Jesus remains committed to a Europe where human rights, freedom and solidarity are the foundation of integration. Europe, especially the European Union, is currently undergoing the most acute political and economic crisis of its existence. While refusing alarmism, JESC continues, in line with the entire history of OCIPE, to seek a critical but constructive engagement with the EU.

Operationally, JESC will be organized in three areas of work:

- European Affairs: We retain an institutional presence in Brussels to the EU Institutions, and with ecclesial and civil society organizations that relate to them.

Social Coordination: We assume the task of social coordination previously carried out directly by the CEP, to encourage and promote the Jesuit European social sector.

Advocacy/Projects: Advocate on issues around corporate exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo (RPAN); on ecology, coordinating an international network which publishes the electronic newsletter Ecojesuit; and through the ‘Migration Desk’, a service to Jesuits involved in the care of migrants. JESC wishes to embody a Jesuit European engagement which authentically expresses Christian faith, remains close to the poor and marginalised, analyses the social reality with competence, and advocates for justice in European political structures.

Combining career development with spirituality: The European Leadership Programme is a unique project in Brussels. “I was looking forward to a programme inspired by the founding Christian democratic fathers of the European Union,” said Kamil Mikulski, a 27-year-old from Poland, introducing himself. Kamil is one of the five fellows the JESC (Jesuit European social centre) selected for the European Leadership Programme (ELP) started on 1st March this year. Kamil is interested in geopolitics and intelligence security. In his vision, the European Union of the future will have a common European security agency.    Kamil Mikulski, Magdalena Smenda, Francesco Pisanò, Ismail Targuluyey Every year, thousands of postgraduate students arrive in Brussels searching for a path to their career.  Many of them focus on their personal ambitions; many try to find a meaningful experience through an internship in the European institutions. Often they do not find it.  Perhaps it is not just a job that they need - it is a mentor. That was the experience of Kamil who had several work experiences but then decided to do something different and joined the ELP in Brussels. Based on the idea of combining career development with spirituality, the ELP is a project run by the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC), supported, among others, by the Bishops Conferences in the EU. Ismail Targuluyey, 26 years-old and from Azerbaijan, is also an ELP fellow.  He is keen to learn about the existing policies of the EU on education, agriculture, innovation and technology. "I want to see this same sort of development in my own country," he said, hoping for a better future for Azerbaijan.   The five segments of the ELP   Politics, learning, coaching, immersion (in volunteering with people at the margins) and community are the five themes that fill the time of the fellows this semester and those coming in the further semesters. "Coaching is my favourite,” said Magdalena Smenda, a 26-year-old from Poland. “I hope to discover what I can do professionally."  And they enjoy weekends at a spiritual retreat outside of the city to help make them better know themselves, away from daily distractions. This is the same kind of spiritual retreat that Peter Rožič SJ, along with other Jesuits, organises for entrepreneurs and politicians such as Lojze Peterle.   Mr. Lojze Peterle Mr. Peterle is a politician from the New Slovenian party and a member of the European Parliament.  He served as Prime Minister of Slovenia from 1990 to 1992 and then as the country’s Foreign Minister. He is also one of the prominent lecturers at the ELP.  During his meeting with the ELP fellows on 20th March, he talked about his political experience during a time of transition in Slovenia at the end of the communist system.  The fellows appreciated how engaging he was when talking about his own personal growth as a man of faith during the most difficult years of his life. “Being a leader has been a gift to serve my people,” Peterle said. His values, he concluded, are rooted in human dignity and social justice. Mr. Philippe Lamberts These same principles are shared by another MEP, Philippe Lamberts, from the Green group in the European Parliament, who gave a lecture to the ELP fellows on 21st March. “When the world is uncertain,” he said, “when the circumstances evolve and they are unpredictable or harsh, you need a very good compass to find your way.” His compass has always been directed towards the idea of the equal dignity of the human being. “You find it in the Gospel,” he said about equality, “just as it is in the Universal Declaration Human Rights.” The good news for aspiring new fellows is that a new semester of the ELP will start in the Autumn of 2019. Registration opens in July. It will be a great occasion to once again bring politicians and academics, such as Herman Van Rompuy, former European Council President, together with a younger generation of fellows wanting to develop their personal commitment to politics, faith and justice. For more information follow the ELP on Facebook. by Susan Dabbous,JESC communications assistant
A comprehensive six-month programme in Brussels. ‘‘We are happy to announce that this February, JESC will inaugurate the ELP. We will offer committed young Europeans a fellowship experience of professional training that will help them learn to guide ​our society with political virtue and Christian principles.” General Video: Learning Segment: The ELP is a Brussels-based project where you, an emerging leader, will develop skills through theoretical and practical methodologies by living together with your fellows for six months. ​The activities will consist of five interrelated segments: You will be immersed in the administrative and political life of E.U. institutions and have the opportunity to meet with political leaders in Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and beyond. You will participate in modules and workshops presented by high profile academics and practitioners in order to develop your leadership skills and stimulate reflection and discussion. You will be immersed in a voluntary experience of living in and serving a marginalised community. You will receive spiritual guidance and discernment training. ​You will live in, and enjoy, a community of friends that is located in the heart of Brussels. ​​ ​The goal of ELP is to contribute to the formation of spirituality and to build on own calling, this way gaining tools for managing ​the life of a leader. ​Thanks to retreats, on-going formation, spiritual direction, sharing of experiences in groups and community life, those chosen will enhance their self-knowledge so as to understand others in a deeper way. An essential element is the experience of living together under one roof as a community. This experience will focus on building character through community life and common policies, such as spiritual training, environmental vigilance and international hospitality. Applications are now open! Join this adventure for hearts and minds to navigate the challenge.
Following the successful weekend at “La Pairelle” last September, JESC co-organised a panel discussion, along with the Chapel for Europe, who graciously hosted the event. The theme was on “Rediscovering the European Common Good”. Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council, courteously agreed to act as keynote speaker to set up the panel discussion. In his keynote speech, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy gave three examples, during his time as President of the European Council of what he referred to as “applied ethics”: The banking crisis exemplified the need for trust in institutions, “It was ironic that the banks, in which the public had huge confidence, were saved by politicians, who were not trusted at all by large parts of the population.” The role of current economic growth models in Europe and the problems of adaption to fundamental societal change: “Our growth model has changed dramatically in the course of the last several decades. Wrongly, this is often presented as if we still live in a purely capitalist system. Public authorities play an ever-growing role. The main problem is that companies are working internationally, while the countervailing powers are still too national.” The recent migration and refugee crisis, which are bound up with identity and morality in leadership: “The recent crisis, the multiple crisis, was also a moral crisis. A balance had to be found between ‘ethical idealism and political realism’, between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility, between politics as the art of the possible and politics as the art of the necessary.” On the topic of European culture, Mr. Van Rompuy discussed the concept of a common base in a plural society, discouraging the idea of “absolute unity” as an objective in a peaceful and stable society and nothing the necessity of people-to-people contact especially among young people in a time of tablets and smartphones. You can read the full speech of Mr. Van Rompuy, here. After Mr. Van Rompuy's speech, reactions and contributions followed by the panellists of the evening; Marie de Saint-Chéron of Safran, and member of the “Passion for Europe” group, Arch. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ (President of COMECE), and Rev. Christian Krieger (President of CEC). Martin Maier SJ, Secretary for European Affairs at JESC, moderated the panel. During the discussion which followed, Marie de Saint-Chéron agreed that “common good” is more than solely a European issue, but a broader, moral issue in the world. Archbishop Hollerich added that the EU is the object of study in countries like Japan, where regional tensions are palpable. On the topic of unity in COMECE, he also noted that the bishops, like the politicians and citizens, are divided on political issues. Reverend Krieger stressed that diversity in Europe should not be underestimated. The evening was concluded with a convivial reception in the Chapel’s lobby. Read also the "Passion for Europe" document
Over sixty people gathered at a three-day workshop entitled "Rediscovering the European Common Good" to analyse, discuss and influence the past, present and future of Europe. The weekend workshop was introduced by Marie de Saint-Cheron and Martin Maier SJ, representing the co-organisers the Passion for Europe group and the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC). In her opening speech and presentation, Victoria Martín de la Torre emphasised the importance of the dream, the vision and the sources that the “providential” European project has been based upon. Migration flows The first panel on migration flows opened a heated debate on the “chaos” of the current so-called “migrants crisis.” Stephen Ryan, from the European Commission, emphasised the need of a “controlled migration” since “uncontrolled migration creates insecurity in our citizenry.” José Ignacio Garcia SJ, from the Jesuit Refugee Service - Europe, focused on the ambivalent role of the NGOs that now even themselves a question that should have an obviously positive answer: “Why should we protect people?” - something that has been dealt with well and that “we need to calm down the situation” as “we are getting neurotic.” Michael Schöpf SJ, from the Center for Global Questions, declared “I cannot be a Christian without the recognition of the other person [of others] in full humanity.” For Schöpf, “it is not about charity but about virtue” when dealing with the crisis, emphasizing “practice.” Torsten Moritz, from the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe, called for consistent and necessary action. The late afternoon ensued with work in groups, the results of which will be presented on Sunday. In the evening, the participants enjoyed and discussed a video of Pope Francis's speech on Europe and an ensuing social hour. Integral ecology Chiara Martinelli, the executive adviser on sustainable development at CIDSE, opened and moderated the Saturday morning session on Integral ecology at the Rediscovering the European Common Good Workshop. After a warm and poetic introduction, Martinelli gave floor first to Andrea Tilche, the Acting Director of the Directorate Environment of the European Commission. Tilche emphasised from the outset that “We have to go to zero. We have to stop emissions very soon.” He called out that a "systemic change needs to happen because the time is running short.” Critical of the Christian contribution, Tilche remarked that “Maybe the Church has not taken up the mobilisation, the understanding, and the immense significance of Pope’s Encyclical Laudato Si’." Philippe Lamberts, a Member of the European Parliament, drew strongly upon the Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ . Lamberts stressed that “the topic of Laudato Si’ is the on of the human dignity." But, then continued: "When the Pope spoke at the European Parliament he got a standing ovation. Did we perceive any changes afterwards? Absolutely not.” Martin Maier SJ, the secretary of European affairs at JESC, said as a third panelist that “The impact of this Encyclical astonishing. Laudato si’ is a very fruitful document. The Pope wanted to launch a dialogue. It is a joyful and dramatic document.” Maier bemoaned the fact that often “the reception of Laudato Si’ had a stronger reception outside the Church than in the inside of the Church. The reception of this document needs time. But the time is running out. Action means systemic change.” Pannels and sessions included the topics of migration, ecology and culture. The workshop included work in groups and a live piano concert. The weekend was organised by the Passion for Europe group and JESC.
The Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC) participated in the first Laudato Si’ Reflection Day held in Brussels on 6 June with more than 70 representatives of the European Bishops’ Conferences, Catholic organisations and movements. Together they expressed their support for a sustainable financial system in Europe and the Church. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, Archbishop of Luxembourg and President of COMECE, insisted on the timeliness of the event in the immediate aftermath of a recent legislative proposal by the European Commission and last week’s report of the European Parliament on sustainable finance. Molly Scott Cato, MEP and rapporteur of this report, also participated in the Reflection Day and insisted on a dynamic approach regarding the sustainability of financial products. Martin Spolc, from the EU Commission, presented the action plan for sustainable finance and the preparatory work on the taxonomy for a clear and common language across Europe that could help to avoid the “green-washing” of financial products for marketing reasons. Other speakers such as Lorna Gold, from the Irish Catholic Development organisation Trocaire, called for coherence in an era of climate change and discussed ethical investment as a challenge for the Church. Right after the Midday Prayer and lunch, best practices coming from a Catholic diocese, a Catholic bishops’ conference, a religious order and a Catholic bank were presented. Participants formulated a number of recommendations, which will be presented to the Laudato Si’ Anniversary Conference in the Vatican next July 2018.
Social Apostolate Delegates and Social Centres Directors Annual Meeting Milano, 8-11 April 2018 The delegates and coordinators of the social apostolate sector in Europe and Near East met this year in Milan at a back-to back meetings with the directors of the Jesuit European Social Centres. The meeting of these two networks provided a fertile venue to discern Universal Apostolic Preferences within the social dimension of our mission as well to determine the primary orientation for works and social projects that include a European focus. The meeting took place at the Istituto Leone XIII, an important Jesuit school that is known for its various educational, social and pastoral activities. Franck Janin, the President of the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials, and Xavier Jeyaraj, the Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology at the General Curia in Rome, joined the meetings of the delegates and of the directors.   The first group, that is social delegates, had the chance to pray, think, discern and deliberate over the apostolic preferences through the lenses of both universal and European approaches. The profiles of the “delegate” and “coordinator” for social apostolate were also discussed. The method used was discernment in common through spiritual conversation. The second group, the directors, represented, among others, Social Centres such as Cristianismo y Justicia (Spain), Centre Avec (Belgium), Aggiornamenti Sociali (Italy) used a similar meeting formula in order to draw up the plan for the next year that is based on a common vision for the centres network. The journey ended with a joint preliminary statement: “We desire a life together in Europe that, inspired by Ignatian vision, bears witness to the values of reconciliation and promotion of the common good, and proclaims a message of liberation with those we serve.” Members of both networks had the chance to visit the magnificent city of Milan for one afternoon, starting with the facilities and projects of Aggiornamenti Sociali and San Fedele, followed by a visit to the surroundings of Duomo di Milano and ending with a pleasant meal at a local restaurant. The results of the Milan deliberations have been delivered to the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat in Rome and will be presented to the Conference Provincials for further discernment and approval at their next annual meeting in Barcelona. While the results of the discernment process need to be examined further and confirmed by the networks and the Provincials, the orientation towards working with and for vulnerable people on the move and integral ecology emerged clearly as a possible common path in the future. Next year’s meeting for the delegates is expected to take place between 31st of March and 4th of April, and for the directors between 5th and 8th of May 2019. Memories of the Annual Meeting: check this video made by Alberto Ares.