Lojze Peterle was born in the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, formerly part of Yugoslavia, on June 29, 1948. He is the first politician to hold the position of Prime Minister of Slovenia. He is a Member of the European Parliament:
Distinguished Mr. Tomaz Mavrič, Superior General of the Vincentian Family and other representatives of the Vincentian family, distinguished Father Pedro Opeka, Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentleman.
Today, we welcome representatives of the Vincentian Family in the European Parliament to celebrate 400 years of service. This family is known by many names around the world: the congregation of the Mission, Vincentians, and Lazarists. All of these names stand for goodness, humility and love for fellow humans, which is exactly what these pictures here today are portraying. But the 400th anniversary is only a pretext for today’s celebration. We also welcome the launch of the Vincentian Family Global Initiative against homelessness.
Over the past four centuries, the Vincentian Family has had an enormous global impact, providing aid and teaching social responsibility. I could speak of all different projects, but the pictures exhibited will provide a much more powerful testimony. I would like to talk about one mission in particular, namely the one of Father Pedro Opeka and his work in Madagascar.
I am honoured to call Father Opeka an old friend. Although he was raised in Argentina, his parents are from Slovenia, which makes me exceptionally proud. After joining the order, Father Opeka began work in Madagascar. He saw the conditions the poor were living outside of the city, not only rummaging through the trash for food, but also making makeshift structures in the dump for shelter.
Wanting to help these forgotten members of society, Father Pedro created a local non-governmental organization called Akamasoa, meaning good and faithful friends. Today, Akamasoa provides for approximately thirty thousand people in 18 different villages. And this is just one example within the Vincentian family. Imagine how different the world would look like if we joined the Vincentian eagerness and the political capabilities of the European union!
I am pleased that they have chosen to travel to Brussels to commemorate 400 years of their service. In this very moment, we are executing the purpose of the article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty. By hosting events and exhibitions like this one today, we are indeed recognising the identity and the specific contribution of the Church and we are maintaining an open, transparent and regular dialogue. As the seat of the European Union, Brussels is an important location for international development. And there is much that we could learn from the examples set by our Vincentian brothers. It is about exchanging and learning from one another. They have implemented a highly effective model for developmental aid, to which international organizations, such as the European Union, should pay close attention. What Vincentian Family has been doing for centuries is very close to the values and principles of the founding fathers of the EU who decided to build a community of free European nations based first and foremost on the respect for human dignity. The EU is known by its concept of soft power – we like to share but not impose. There are different concepts of power in politics, one of them being dominance, but the Vincentian Family has been known by implementing the model of serving power.
I am pleased that later today representatives of the Vincentian Family will also meet Commissioner Neven Mimica who is responsible for International Cooperation and Development. He knows that the Vincentian family is visiting Brussels with its readiness for partnership with the European Commission and aimed at the cooperation to help people in need globally.
We should be both generous and sustainable with our developmental aid. We should not only provide for the immediate needs of individuals, but to also equip them with the skills to create a sustainable society.
So, my friends, we welcome you to the European Parliament and congratulate you on this momentous occasion. The formal ceremony will begin at 11 with Father Pedro and President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.
I invite everyone to take this time to explore the exhibit and become acquainted with our guests and their work. Please note that this exhibit will also be on display in Strasbourg and Luxembourg.
28 June 2017, Brussels
Images of the photographic exhibition: