Europe has 'failed' on migration - bishop

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The Church of England's Bishop in Europe has blamed a failure of dialogue between the UK Government and the European Union for the English Channel migrant crisis.

Robert Innes, Bishop of the CofE's Diocese in Europe, which includes Anglican worshippers in 40 countries, told the Conference on the Future of Europe this week that on migration "we need to acknowledge that Europe has failed".

The event was jointly organised by the Conference of European Churches, the ecumenical Chapel for Europe in Brussels, and the Roman Catholic Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

Bishop Innes, who in 2014 became the CofE's chief pastor in Europe as Bishop of Gibraltar, said: "Pope Francis spoke eloquently this week about migration as the shipwreck of European civilisation.

"I think he was right and we are seeing that in the Channel between England and Europe.

"And so there needs to be serious dialogue between the European institutions and England if we are not going to see more and more people dying in the Channel. This is outrageous."

The Brussels-based bishop also spoke of "establishing a soul for Europe - that Europe should not just be a technocratic market, but that it should be a real community".

He urged the EU not to be "embarrassed" about Europe's Christian history and the role that "different religious traditions" play in "a plural society". Otherwise, the EU "risks some religions falling prey to extremist organisations", he warned.

Turning to the Brexit vote, Bishop Innes said: "At least one of the reasons was a disconnect between the so-called metropolitan elites and those who were left behind, those who felt no stake in the central structures of the European Union.

"Brexit provides a warning about what happens if you don't connect with ordinary people."

Other speakers included Dubravka Suica, European Commission Vice President for Democracy and Demography; Gašper Dovžan, State Secretary at the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Sandro Gozi, an Italian Member of the European Parliament; and Helmut Scholz, an MEP from Germany.

They said churches could help promote citizens' active engagement with EU politics "in between elections".