East-West Exchange Could Remedy Secularization, Say European Episcopates

Conclusion of Meeting of General Secretaries

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BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro, JUNE 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A real exchange of gifts between Eastern and Western Europe might contribute to overcome characteristics of today’s secularization, say officials of the continent’s episcopal conferences.

At their annual meeting, held in Belgrade from June 10-13, the general secretaries of the European bishops’ conferences said that «now is the time of a new discovery and proposal of the Gospel for our continent.»

They cited a number of reasons: «the debate about the Christian roots of Europe, the confusion and fear in the face of terrorism, the perception of a complete lack of foundations, the new search for meaning and spirituality,» and «the spread of ambiguous, irrational and sectarian alternative religious experiences.»

In a statement, the participants said that the «shift to the Eastern end of economic and political Europe points to a new great task: the exchange between traditions and histories to overcome once and for all the scheme of an ‘East’ and ‘West’ of Europe.»

In this context, it is urgent «to face up to modern culture and the phenomena of secularization and secularity.»

In the West «there is already a long experience of this, even though in part it has failed; for the East, it is a new, emerging question,» said the participants, as quoted in a press statement of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences.

The statement continued: «Under Communism, Christians were marginalized and humiliated. Will it be thus in the European Union, too? Will faith be forced to remain a private matter in the new Europe, too? The Founding Fathers of the idea of Europe were Christians, but what is happening now?»

«A real exchange of gifts is possible,» the participants contended. «The West can offer the East its own experience of how to live as Christians in a secularized society, and the East can help the West to recover its lost values.»

Discussions were also held on the relationship between Christianity, secularity and religions, and a distinction was made between «a secular view which rejects the role of religion» and authentic «secularity which is an expression of the relationship between church and state.»

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