VATICAN CITY, JUNE 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- With his new apostolic exhortation, “Ecclesia in Europa,” John Paul II aims to give guidance to a new Europe, aided by the Gospel.
“The Christian roots are for Europe the principal guarantee of its future,” the Pope said on Saturday when publishing the exhortation in St. Peter’s Basilica.
In the document he summarizes the conclusions that officially close the 2nd Synod of Bishops for Europe.
The 135-page exhortation includes the 40 proposals presented by the 179 bishops who participated in the synodal assembly held from Oct. 1-23, 1999. The theme of the exhortation is the same as that of the synod: “Jesus Christ Alive in His Church, Source of Hope for Europe.”
“The Church is convinced that she has a treasure to offer Europe, in reality its only treasure and hope: Jesus Christ,” Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, said when presenting the exhortation.
“Jesus Christ is not only about Europe’s past,” said the cardinal, who was the synod’s relator. “The Church is convinced that she can make a great contribution to the construction of the Europe of values and peoples, not by offering technical solutions, but foundations of values and rights based on the dignity of man as son of God.”
In the exhortation, the Pope first makes an appeal to European Catholics to live the Gospel to the utmost, as he detects in the Church in Europe symptoms of worldliness. He invites the faithful not to lose their Christian identity, to recover the interior life, to maintain communion, to overcome fears, reluctance, omissions and infidelities, and to continue in the way of ecumenical dialogue.
The exhortation also invites Catholics to proclaim the mystery of Christ, stating that in Europe the number of unbaptized persons is growing. At the same time, it notes that there are many baptized people who have fallen away from the faith, tainted by a secularist interpretation of the faith, and who need a new evangelization.
The document then refers to the thirst for God evident in Europeans, and the Pope warns about the danger of losing the meaning of the celebration of the sacraments, in particular that of reconciliation and the Eucharist.
Further, he proposes service to charity to extend the “culture of solidarity,” giving new hope, with preferential love, to the poor.
In this connection, the Pope suggests three important fields of action: defense and assistance to the family (given the proposals and legal plans that threaten its identity); support of life (given the lack of births and the threats of abortion and euthanasia); and acceptance of immigrants. In this way, he says, Christians will be able to make their contribution to the new Europe.
John Paul II writes that the European Union “will not have solidity if it is reduced to the geographic and economic dimension only, as above all it should consist of agreement on values expressed in law and in life.”
He asks that the future European Constitution make reference to the religious patrimony, particularly the Christian, and respect the rights proper to churches and religious communities.
The Catholic Church’s relation with Europe is not that of a return to a confessional state, nor of laicism or hostile separation, but, on the contrary, of healthy cooperation, he stresses.
“Europe needs a qualitative leap in awareness of its spiritual heritage,” the Pope says. To the continent, he adds: “The Gospel is not against you, but for you.”