If Europe Loses Family, It Loses Its Identity, Says Cardinal Ratzinger

Senses a “Strange Lack of Enthusiasm About the Future”

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ROME, MAY 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The crisis of the family in Europe is endangering the identity of the continent, warns Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith proposed Christian values as the anchor of salvation, in an address at a ceremony organized in Rome by Marcello Pera, president of the Italian Senate.

A few days after the entry of 10 new nations into the European Union, the cardinal said: “Precisely in this hour of its greatest success, Europe seems to have emptied itself in its interior, paralyzing itself in a certain sense by a crisis in its circulatory system,” a crisis that endangers its “identity.”

“To this interior failing of the spiritual forces is added the fact that also ethnically Europe seems to be undertaking the path of farewell,” the cardinal commented in his address last Thursday.

“There is a strange lack of enthusiasm about the future,” the dean of the College of Cardinals contended. “Children, who are the future, are seen as a threat to the present; it is thought that they take something away from our lives.”

This situation, he stressed, marked the “the decline of the Roman Empire.”

The cardinal recalled how Europe — both East and West — previously agreed, in the light of biblical faith, on the idea of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Therefore, “Europe would no longer be Europe if this fundamental cell of its social edifice disappears or is essentially altered,” he said.

“The Charter of Fundamental Rights [of the European Union] speaks of the right to marriage, but it does not make reference to a specific juridical and moral protection and does not even define it in a more precise way,” the cardinal continued.

“And we all know how marriage and the family are threatened, on one hand, because of the emptying of its indissolubility through ever-more easy forms of divorce; on the other, because of a new behavior that is spreading increasingly: a man and woman living together without the juridical form of marriage,” he said.

Regarding proposals for the recognition of marriage between homosexuals, Cardinal Ratzinger said: “With this tendency we go outside of the whole moral history of humanity.”

“It is not a question of discrimination, but rather a question of what is a human person insofar as man and woman,” he said. “We are facing a dissolution of the image of the human being, whose consequences can be extremely grave.”

With reference to the religious question, Cardinal Ratzinger emphasized that “in our present-day society, thank God, anyone who dishonors the faith of Israel, its image of God, its great figures, is penalized. Whoever offends the Koran and the fundamental convictions of Islam is penalized.”

However, the cardinal continued, “when it is a question of Christ and of what is sacred to Christians, then freedom of opinion appears as the supreme good, and if it is limited it would be akin to threatening or even destroying tolerance and freedom in general.”

“But freedom of opinion cannot destroy the honor and dignity of the other; it does not mean freedom to lie or to destroy human rights,” he said.

Cardinal Ratzinger added: “Europe needs a new — and certainly critical and humble — acceptance of itself, if it really wishes to survive.”

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