Truth and meaning

European Churches (CCEE): in a book the journey from 1992 to 2006

Follows an excerpt of the address of Msgr. Aldo Giordano, former Secretary General of the European Bishops’ Conference and special envoy of the Holy See to the Council of Europe, delivered on Jan 21 during the presentation of the book “The Bishops and the New Europe. Official CCEE documents (1992-2006)” published by the French publishing house du Cerf, at the Institut Catholique in Paris.Before the risk of darkness, in our post-ideological Europe, basic, existential questions are once again being raised: ‘is there a meaning to living and to history? Is there a virtue or an individual that can respond to my yearning to existence, happiness, enjoyment, affection and eternity and that I can devote my life to? Are suffering and death man’s last words and as such are they the defeat of all of my desires? Does meaning have sense?’ To this regard Nietzsche writes: “Man was a basically sickly animal. But what raised his indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering. (…) This is the curse that has spread across humanity until nowadays”. The question about truth is linked to the question on meaning. We must not forget that the most frequent cause of death among the youth in 7-8 European countries is suicide. In all likelihood, this crisis has triggered the current need for spirituality, the ‘recovery of the sacred’ and ‘alternative religions’, which constitute an attempt to break down the borders of solitude. However, it must also be acknowledged that the current recovery of the sacred is often the sign of an expectation, not the answer: a face that is identified with goodness, beauty and truth, which man’s heart is in dire need of. Before an anonymous form of sacredness, man lingers in his loneliness.The ongoing debate on a reference to God and to the Christian roots in the European constitutional treaty – endorsed in Brussels on June 18 2004 and signed in Rome on October 29 2004, but subsequently affected by the no-vote of the French and Dutch referendums – does not appear to have addressed this fundamental question. The debate has been very lively, interesting, and also painful. Why is it so hard to mention God or Christianity? Dated ideological conflicts, along with the authoritarianism of a certain form of laicism influenced the debate. But most of all, a crucial misunderstanding of Christianity came to the fore: some claimed it was a question of privileges, while others mentioned the need of dividing the cake. Others still said that mentioning Christianity would offend other religions, Islam in particular, and that it would jeopardize laicism… And it was also claimed that religion pertains to the private sphere. The questions that came to my mind during these debates in Brussels and across European countries have always been the same: “did Jesus Christ come to this world for a question of privileges? Is the God that dies on the cross for love a threat to our Muslim brothers? Does the Gospel that distinguishes between what is Ceasar’s and what is God’s constitute a danger to laicism? What is the meaning of the word Christianity and the term God or the term religion in contemporary Europe? As relates to the Constitutional Treaty Preamble, consensus was reached on the insertion of the adjective “religious”. However, it is a consensus with a minimum common denominator. Thus the anonymous claim that Europe has religious roots can indeed be made, but nothing more. Instead of attempting to reach consensus over a minimum common denominator, the time has come to seek to reach it on a maximum one. I don’t consider it very fruitful to find a minimum over which everyone agrees in an impersonal manner. Rather, the most truthful and authentic richness conveyed by each and every one of us must be identified. Christianity has something significant to give not so much in terms of a generic religious experience but as the specific revelation of Jesus Christ dead and resurrected. He is the interesting point! The debate didn’t take seriousness into due consideration.

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