Vatican City, Oct 27, 2017 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The concern felt by both the Catholic Church and local civil leaders for the future of Europe provides an opportunity for collaboration in creating a better future, a high-level European politician said Friday.

“So if we both, political and Church, are concerned, then we surely have the capacity between us to make it better. This is what it's about,” Mairead McGuinness, vice president of the European Parliament, said Oct. 27.

“We're looking at ways of trying to listen, engage, move the conversation along, from a place where we're both concerned about the future of Europe.”

She spoke to journalists on the first day of a Vatican-sponsored conference on the future of Europe, taking place in Rome Oct. 27-29.

Titled “(Re)Thinking Europe: A Christian Contribution to the Future of the European Project,” the conference gathers together hundreds of high-level Church and E.U. political leaders.

Some 350 participants from 28 delegations representing all E.U. countries are in attendance, as well as academics, ambassadors, representatives of Catholic organizations and movements, as well as other Christian delegations.

Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the E.U. (TFEU) requires dialogue between the parliamentary institutions and religious and non-confessional organizations. As vice president of the European Parliament, McGuinness said it is her job to look after this dialogue.

This has been “really uplifting,” she said, “first of all to know the depth of interest among the religious communities to have this engagement. And second, we can learn a lot by just listening to those who are in leadership roles and we can learn from each other.”

In a speech to open the conference, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy See is not indifferent to the problems and fate of Europe “and it will always want to offer its own contribution to the idea of the people of the continent.”

We must never lose sight of the fact that the foundation of the European Union is the many beliefs of the women and men who make up the continent, he said, ensuring that all ideas for the future are steeped in reality, placing the human being at the center.

“The E.U. Project is a human project,” he said, something which can’t be forgotten as Europe searches for a way forward.