Cardinal Lustiger Says Europe's Regeneration Needs Christianity

Sees the Faith as a River in the Desert

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ROME, JUNE 27, 2002 ( Christianity in Europe can function like a river that «makes the desert come to life again,» according to the archbishop of Paris.

In an article published Wednesday by the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger refers to the vision of the prophet Ezekiel and describes Christianity as a «river of living water that flows from the new temple [and] makes the desert come to life again.»

The French cardinal outlined his views in an essay on the role of Christians in the Old World at a time when the European Convention is reflecting on the constitutional and institutional future of the continent.

«[The] Europe we have dreamed of and desired, is like Ezekiel’s temple, a marvelous construction whose plans are unrealizable and whose beauty is fascinating, but which belongs only to the fantasy of the one who conceived it,» writes the cardinal.

«Following the nightmarish Europe we have known, both during the two World Wars as well as afterward, with ruptures and divisions, finally, for the first time, a new Europe appears, which emerged from the secret dreams of the founders,» contends the archbishop who was born to a Jewish family of Polish origin.

«The desert is our time: It is that strange landscape in which we find ourselves, where Europe’s dream remains hidden in the heart of the visionaries, but in which the peoples experience only contradictory desires, difficulties in committing themselves, struggles to obtain the best piece of the cake,» he states.

The archbishop of Paris acknowledges that, on one hand, Europe has been «the womb of the modern world,» the only continent that «has globalized as culture and as civilization.» However, on the other hand, this civilization seems exhausted «as if it had lost its secret and inner force of renewal.»

«In order to attain unity in this amalgam, personal and collective ambition is necessary, a will and means, an attractive ideal is needed, a civilization that will make each one of those that make it up wish to participate in its construction and adhere to what cannot be only a cooperative,» he adds.

«Where is the soul’s contribution? Where is the soul?» Cardinal Lustiger asks.

«Christianity, which has a critical though not exclusive place in Europe, has a duty with regard to the European construction, which it is possible to illustrate metaphorically, by referring to the role that Ezekiel gives the river of water in the desert,» the cardinal replies.

The challenge is not in recognizing the historic role of Christianity, but in the river continuing to regenerate the desert, the cardinal adds.

Therefore, to construct a Europe based on a high ideal is an exigency that every Christian must feel, the cardinal continues.

«What could this ideal of Europe be?» he queries. The ideal must offer «reasons for life.» If Europe is no more than an interesting passport, then «there is no reason for Europe to exist,» the cardinal concludes.

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