The first constitutive plenary assembly of the new Capuchin Conference of Northern and Eastern Europe (CENEC) was held from November 1-4, 2023. Provincial ministers, custodes, delegates and superiors of Capuchin presences previously organized into the two conferences for Eastern Europe (CECOC) and for North Central Europe (CENOC) gathered in Tenczyn, near Krakow, Poland. The new conference, called CENEC, includes the provinces of Krakow, Germany, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Warsaw; the custodies of Belarus and Ukraine; and delegations from Bulgaria, Great Britain, Sweden, Tyrol, Hungary, and Vienna, as well as the Delegation of the Low Countries (Belgium and Holland). There are also presences from Georgia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia. The meeting was attended by the General Minister, Br. Roberto Genuin, and the General Councilor, Br. Piotr Stasiński.
The gathering began with an hour of Eucharistic adoration where the intercession of the Lord was invoked for all the relevant questions and decisions before the conference began. There followed an official welcome and then the election of the officers. Br. Helmut Rakowski from the Province of Germany was elected president and Br. Marek Miszczyński from the Province of Krakow was elected vice president. The second order of business was to discuss and approve the statutes of the conference.
Much of the work of the meeting was devoted to getting to know one another via detailed presentations from circumscriptions present: of their social, geographical context and with descriptions of the areas where we are present. The generous hospitality of the brothers from Krakow provided opportunities to make new acquaintances and catch up with old ones, especially during meals and recreational activities.
In his homily during the Eucharist, Br. Roberto referred to the situation of the aging and declining number of friars in Europe. He invited the friars to support one other in this concern and to work together to develop future prospects for the Capuchin presence on this continent. On the second day, Br. Helmut also spoke about the challenges in our times for the friars in Europe, such as the situation in Ukraine marked by war that is causing suffering and hardship, and which has opened a rift in Europe with more than a few organizational difficulties. As Jesus heals the wounded with his touch, we too are called to alleviate suffering through the power of closeness and intimacy, thus doing our part to bring about healing and peace.