Shaping Europe

With her original Christian roots

Europe must not fear her Christian roots because “if Europe is ashamed of herself, her Christian roots and identity, she won’t have any future. She will inexorably embark on her decline”. These strong words were pronounced by Mgr. Rino Fisichella, President of the newly founded Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization in Brussels on the evening of 24 November, in his intervention in the debate “Shaping the EU of tomorrow”, promoted by COMECE (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union) to mark the 30th anniversary of its establishment. The meeting was hosted by the Bavarian Representation to the European Union.Strong and shared identity. In a long and closely argued address, Mgr. Fisichella spoke of the contribution of Christianity to Europe. “Experience teaches us – he said – that the future is determined by our history and by the ability of our generation to transmit our heritage of history and civilization to future generations”. In the view of the Vatican prelate, Europe “shall never be really united, if she decides to break with her past. For then it would be impossible for her to impose on such different citizens a feeling of belonging to a reality without roots and without a soul. The project could never be crowned with success”. Only with “a strong identity that is shared by everyone” – added Mgr. Fisichella – shall Europe “be able to vanquish every form of fundamentalism and extremism that threaten our countries in an ever more recurrent way”. The President of the new Pontifical Council concluded his address by emphasizing the presence in Europe of “a neutrality tempted by anti-Christianity”. And he said: “We Catholics shall not shirk our responsibility, nor shall we accept being sidelined. We believe on the contrary that our contribution is essential if the process is to be realized in a positive way. Without the significant presence of Catholics, Europe would be impoverished. She would be isolated and become less attractive. That’s why we want to be heard and put to the test, so that the richness of our faith may once again shine forth and inspire the authentic progress of society”.Re-awakening the conscience. In his analysis of the situation and prospects of the European Union, Jacques Delors, President of the EU Commission from 1985 to 1994, confirmed his persuasion of the need for “a high value that is shared by Europeans”. “Only if the spiritual dimension is not excluded from cultural and political reflections – he said – shall Europe have a future; only then, that is, shall she respond to her vocation of being the ‘common home’ and the mouthpiece of democracy and peace in the world: Europe increasingly has a need for a soul”. There can be – he continued – “no doubt about the validity of the progress made by the European institutions over the last 60 years”, but “alongside the single currency, free circulation, Lisbon and enlargement, what Europe needs is a renewed and stronger mutual understanding. The peoples of Europe need to keep alive the flame of unity in diversity that the founding fathers bequeathed to them, so that today too the new generations may have a light for their journey towards the Europe of the future”. Unfortunately, commented Delors, “national governments have lost their enthusiasm for the European project”, while “individualism is gaining ground in society” and solidarity, one of the mainstays of the “common home”, is being lost. Delors identified the “hidden treasure of education” as the recipe for not succumbing to pessimism: “we need to educate or, more simply, re-awaken the conscience”. “Continue, continue, continue…” In his welcoming remarks to the participants, Mgr. Adrianus van Luyn, Bishop of Rotterdam and President of COMECE, declared that “the Church must follow with great intellectual and spiritual attention the process of European unification”. The Church, he said, “cannot furnish made-to-measure answers or propose solutions to the problems” of the EU, but she can offer the “meta-political” and “meta-economic” principles of the inviolable dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity. “In Europe – observed the President of COMECE – Christianity will only survive if Christians have the will to play an active role in giving form to the construction of Europe and work for a more human future for our continent”. For her part the Minister of Bavaria, Emilia Müller, recalled the reunification of the two Germanys, while the new Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich-Freising and Vice-President of COMECE, underlined the importance of the social doctrine of the Church, the role of COMECE and the value of dialogue between Churches and EU institutions. Paolo Bustaffa, director of SIR – SIR Europe and moderator of the debate, ended the meeting with a memory of Jean Monnet: “When shortly before his death some journalists asked him what should be done to re-launch Europe, he replied: ‘Continue, continue, continue'”. “This – commented Bustaffa – is the appeal that the European Churches are called to take up today and translate into an even stronger commitment”.

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