The origins of EuFRES can be traced back to the 1950s when a group of persons responsible for pastoral care in Europe came together with an interest in both parish catechesis and religious education in schools. As a result of dynamic socio-cultural change, Europe became increasingly pluralistic. The simultaneous process of de-Christianisation of society, manifested among other things in young people turning away from church and religion, a moral revolution and the emergence of sects and new religious movements, led to the search for a model for religious education in schools that would meet the existing pastoral conditions. In the course of time, it became clear that efforts had to be made to find a model of religious education which, while preserving the school’s own character, was in harmony with its aims and tasks. These reasons were the main argument for the founding of the European Forum for Religious Education in Schools in 1984. The first President of EuFRES was elected to represent Germany, Fritz Bauer (1984-1986). In the following years, the presidency was successively held by Gerhard Ott of Germany (1986-1992), Korherr Edgar of Austria (1992-1996), Fidel Herraez of Spain (19096-1998), Ernst Bloekl of Germany (1998-2002), Flavio Pajer of Italy (202-2006), Avelino Revilla Cuñado of Spain (2006-2014), Filippo Morlacchi of Italy (2014-2018) and Roman Buchta of Poland (2018-).
The following topics of the EuFRES meetings, which took place consecutively between 1984 and 2021, were dealt with:
– Catholic Religious Education in European Secondary Schools (Klingenthal – Germany 1984);
– The Religion Teacher as Companion (Munich – Germany 1986);
– Catholic religious education and the question of the meaning of life (Luxembourg 1988);
– Catholic religious education between democratisation and secularisation (Slagelse/Copenhagen – Denmark 1990);
– Religious Education as a Service of the Church for a United Europe (Graz – Austria 1992);
– Catholic Religious Education and the Challenge of Cultural Pluralism in Europe (Madrid – Spain 1994);
– Identity and Dialogue, Demands on Religious Education in Europe (Bressanone – Italy 1996);
– The Contribution of Catholic Religious Education to the Educational Goals of Schools (Lisbon – Portugal 1998);
– Religious Competence in Multicultural Societies. Goals of Religious Education Today (Bratislava – Slovakia 2000);
– Catholic religious education as education for personal and social identity (Schmochtitz/Dresden – Germany 2002);
– Christian denominations and the great religions of the Mediterranean culture in the formation of a new civil society in Europe (Carini/Palermo – Italy 2004);
– Future for Heaven and Earth. Sustainable Development and Spirituality (Vienna – Austria 2006);
– Education and Life in Peace. Christianity and Secularism: Intercultural Challenges (Esztergom – Hungary 2008);
– Education and Education for a “Culture of Love” (Rome – Italy 2010);
– Religious Education and Social Cohesion in Europe. Proposals for Teacher Education (Madrid – 2014);
– Religious Education as Accompaniment on the Road to Emmaus. European society between rapid change and Christian identity (Katowice – Poland 2016);
– Discovering and Fostering Spiritual Intelligence. An enrichment for the person and a blessing for the community (Munich – Germany 2018);
– Dialogue of Cultures in Europe – A Challenge for Religious Education in Schools (the meeting planned for 2020 in Vienna was postponed to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic);
– Religious Education in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic (online – 2021).
The EuFRES meetings have shown that the socio-cultural conditions, religious experiences and legal regulations for religious education in schools vary greatly between European countries. This resulted in the need to look for a model for religious education that better reflects the interreligious and intercultural character of the modern school. It also pointed to the need to listen to the expectations of young people whose religious education takes place in a world of post-Christian culture that is indifferent and often hostile to the Gospel. Over time, at the level of school forms, the conviction prevailed that, given the diversity of contexts mentioned above, it was necessary to propose different models for religious education in Europe.