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(Re)thinking Europe. Mons. Scicluna, “bridges, not walls. Reception is in the DNA of our Continent”

The archbishop of Malta, one of the speakers at the dialogue forum on Europe’s future to be held in the Vatican on the joint initiative of COMECE and the Holy See, reflects on a set of topical issues, starting with the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, focusing on the meaning of democracy, the role of the political realm, the dialogue between Churches and institutions, the commitment for the common good, solidarity and migration inflows

“The heinous murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia signalled a moment of great tension for Malta, but it was met with a strong reaction on the part of civil society. This means that the fundamental pillar of democracy was unabated: when people react it’s a sign that social conscience is thriving and that it does not let itself be intimidated by the arrogance of those who seek the physical elimination of their opponents or of a journalist who criticizes and investigates to fight corruption, misuse of power and prevarication”, said the Archbishop of Malta Mons. Charles Scicluna, ahead of the meeting titled “(Re)thinking Europe”, to be held in the Vatican October 27 to 29 on the joint initiative of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and the Holy See. “We are all under shock, and we’re asking ourselves how we got where we are today. I cannot imagine that a person can have so much viciousness in his heart as to decide to kill a person who is simply doing her job, however critical may be her views. It’s time for the Maltese nation, a small country proud of its long tradition, to show the world that democracy is not a pantomime: it’s a reality.”

The situation in Malta has been polarized for months, and the dialogue process is difficult. On several occasions you called upon political leaders to promote reconciliation… I think that this proposition is applicable at European level, since mutual intolerance is evident in many areas. We are witnessing an exacerbation of political dialogue or perhaps to a lack of dialogue, that worries external observers and those who are committed in the advancement of dialogue and the common good.

 As bishops, our invitation to the European population is to nurture the import of dialogue.

Unfortunately, some extremist and nationalist movement oppose this culture of dialogue that was so effectively and prophetically proclaimed by Pope Francis, but we ought to promote it also in our daily lives.

The Vatican meeting will also discuss the “state of democracy in Europe.” Do you agree with the fact that corruption, so hard to eradicate in a number of European countries, is an obstacle to democratic life? Pope Francis voiced his utmost condemnation of corruption: let it suffice to recall the Bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and all the times he used strong words to say that corruption is not only a cancer, it is also a poison that worms its way through the political domain and does a disservice to humanity. I believe it also stems from the original sin, from man’s inclination to think only of himself, of his own interests, closed in self-absorption that is an enemy of the common good. When the Pope speaks of political life in Evangelii gaudium, mentioned also in the social encyclical Laudato si’, he describes it as a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good. It ought to occur also when it comes to cross-generational solidarity. These are prophetic, rejuvenating words for political action aimed at the common good. Reality is unfortunately confronted with people who serve personal interests. Indeed, words are important. But as Paul VI said, we also need living witness. The Church isn’t only a hierarchy, it includes committed Christians who are called to be the light of the world in social life, salt of the earth and leaven that causes the dough to rise. These images expressed by Jesus bear deep topical relevance: being a minority shouldn’t discourage us, it’s the logic of the leaven, of the salt, and of the light: they are small elements that bear extraordinary witness, thus – and I hereby extend this appeal also to our faithful here in Malta – we have to translate words into deeds.

You will be one of the speakers in the panel on integration and on “building bridges” between and among States. Which bridges do Christians ought to build in order to support the European project? First of all the bridge of solidarity, that originates from the words of Jesus: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” These words set the criteria of the judgement on us all, and they must become the pillars of a bridge that conveys solidarity. I am thinking of the experience of the Church in Malta and to the hospitality we give every day to 400 immigrants in our structures. This is what I intend by concrete action.

If solidarity is not put into practice it isn’t solidarity.

But Christians are present where policies are discussed. Their presence should promote common sense, balanced approaches coupled by concrete forms of compassion.

What kind of bridges do you expect from the political realm? Humanitarian corridors, for example. Bridges are the antithesis of walls that aim at exclusion. Europe has not grown by denying access to its people, but by welcoming them in. The Mediterranean is inhabited by populations who in the past had left as economic migrants, seeking a better future in the new world, and they built it. Some say – and maybe rightly so – that they were legal, coordinated emigrations. Europe must advance dialogue also with the Countries of departure of flows of people seeking a better life for their families and for themselves, shunning exploitation and colonization, for the integral development of society thereby supporting veritable sharing.

What do you expect from the meeting in Rome? 
It’s an extraordinary idea of COMECE and it will be a beautiful experience of mutual understanding. If we speak of bridges and dialogue, first we need to live them. We have to meet,  listen to each other, our internal dialogue enshrines the inception of a true culture of dialogue.

Is the dialogue between the Church and political life in Malta fruitful? It is because it is proactive. The Church is actively present in the social realm, in education, in the rehabilitation of people who suffered the tragedy of drug-addiction, in the care of the disabled, in old-age homes. Also parishes are marked by strong cultural vivacity. It’s a widespread presence, whereby we are a strong, beautiful part of cultural and social life.

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