VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II fears that Europe is losing its Christian heritage.
The Pope expressed his concern Saturday when he received the participants in the 3rd International Forum organized by the Alcide de Gasperi Foundation. De Gasperi was one of the fathers of the new Europe that emerged after World War II. His cause of beatification has been requested by ecclesial personalities.
“My greatest concern for Europe is that it preserve its Christian heritage and make it fruitful,” the Holy Father said. “Indeed, it cannot be denied that the Continent sinks its roots both in the Greco-Roman as well as the Judeo-Christian patrimony, which for centuries was its most profound soul.”
The Bishop of Rome explained that “a great part of what Europe has produced in the legal, artistic, literary and philosophical fields has the Christian stamp, and it is very difficult to understand and evaluate without a Christian perspective.”
“Unfortunately, [there was] a process of secularization in the middle of the last millennium — intensified since the 18th century — that tried to exclude God and Christianity from all expressions of human life,” the Pope added.
“Thus, the Christian religion has been relegated to the confines of each one´s private life,” he said. “Isn´t it significant, from this point of view, that all explicit reference to religions was removed from the Charter of Europe and, therefore, to Christianity also?
“The Old World needs Jesus Christ if it is not to lose its soul and all that has made it great in the past, and that it still presents today to the admiration of other peoples.”
He continued: “In virtue of the Christian message, the great values were fostered of the dignity and inviolability of the person, of freedom of conscience, of the dignity of work and of the worker, of the right of each one to a worthy and secure life and, consequently, to participation in the goods of the earth, given by God for the enjoyment of all me.”
“Undoubtedly,” he added, “other forces outside the Church also contributed to the affirmation of these values, and at times Catholics themselves, held back by negative historical situations, were slow to recognize the values that were Christian, even if they were cut off, unfortunately, from their religious roots.”
Although the Pope did not mention it, for decades the principles of the French Revolution — liberty, equality, fraternity — were presented as opposed to Christianity, despite the fact that in reality they have their origin in the Gospel.
“The Church today proposes these values again with new vigor to Europe, which runs the risk of falling into ideological relativism and giving way to moral nihilism, stating at times that what is evil is good, and what is good is evil,” John Paul II warned.
The Holy Father concluded by expressing his profound hope for the Continent: “May the European Union be able to find new inspiration in its own Christian patrimony, offering adequate answers to the new questions that are posed especially in the ethical field.”
Earlier, he had appealed to Europe to struggle to overcome “the painful religious break between the West, to a large extent Catholic, and the East, to a large extent Orthodox.” He called for the integration of the peoples of formerly communist Eastern Europe, into the European Union.
In particular, John Paul II asked EU leaders for “understanding in an initial phase as regards fulfillment of the established economic conditions” for membership, “not at all easy for the still-weak economies of the Eastern countries, which have just emerged from a different economic system.”