Prelate Tells Why Europe Needs a Vibrant Christianity

Archbishop Lajolo Addresses Meeting in Krakow

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KRAKOW, Poland, SEPT. 12, 2005 ( Christians can contribute vitally to the building of Europe, and join their efforts to those of other Europeans of good will, says the Vatican secretary for relations with states.

Such a joint effort, contends Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, could overcome the temptation to relegate the faith to the private sphere.

The Vatican official offered that view Friday when addressing an international conference on the role of the Church and of Christians in the future of Europe.

The conference was organized by Krakow’s Pontifical Academy of Theology with the participation, among others, of Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the longtime personal secretary of Pope John Paul II.

It would be «political forgery,» Archbishop Lajolo said, to reduce «the phenomenon ‘Church’ and the phenomenon ‘Christians’ simply to an interior aspect of human existence, at its most private, and in any case irrelevant to the public nature of the political community.»

Weak majority

In the current European Union, of a total population of 456 million, there are 368 million Christians including 262 million Catholics.

But «that is only a statistical census majority,» cautioned the archbishop. «They do not have a weight corresponding to their number in the organs of political power, in the mass media and in public opinion, nor in the most influential cultural institutions.

«There are even episodes which make one think that their presence is condescendingly tolerated, if not actually dismissed as being inconsistent with modern culture, namely, a secularist culture, and their convictions are frequently dismissed as being inconsonant with the principle of the ‘politically correct.’

«To put it briefly, the weight of the presence of Christians in Europe, and specifically of Catholics, cannot go unrecognized in the European framework under the pretext of the so-called lay character of the political community.»

Archbishop Lajolo continued: «Christianity is the only unifying factor among the various European countries, each different by virtue of ethnic character, language and culture.»

A treasure

This factor, he said, is demonstrated by the Church’s social, cultural and artistic contribution, from the school to the family, from the cathedrals to the hospitals, or its care of the poorest.

«Notwithstanding this colorful diversity, which is also a treasure to be carefully safeguarded, a fundamental and pervading commonality can be found with regard to the conception of nature, of human dignity and the final end of humanity,» the Vatican official noted.

«Christianity was the first not only to permit, but even to impose, the distinction between the two powers, religious and civil,» he reminded his audience.

«Albeit through a dramatically painful process, Christianity has given rise to the great principles of equality, freedom and fraternity which are the foundation of the modern state,» added Archbishop Lajolo.

«It is not surprising, therefore,» he said, «that the Church invites Europe towards a greater social and political cohesion, but always respecting the particular identity of individual nations. She invites Europe to breathe ‘with two lungs.’

«Pope John Paul II was very explicit on this point, and on more than one occasion. Had due attention been given to such a basic demand and to the national sensibilities of the different countries, Europe might not have had to endure the blow of a negative vote by two of its founding states on the Constitutional Treaty, solemnly signed in Rome, on 29 October, 2004.»


Archbishop Lajolo quoted the homily of the Mass at the start of the conclave for the papal election, delivered by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on April 18, in which he spoke about the «dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive.»

«Perhaps in no other continent of the world today is there diffused, or better, is there an attempt to disseminate, so much mistrust in the human capacity to reach certainty on ultimate truths, as there is in Europe,» Archbishop Lajolo lamented.
<br> He continued: «Thus, together with the idea of being, so also the concept of nature is being undermined, the principle of the dignity of the human person tends to be frustrated, and the viability itself of human life in its most critical moments is placed in danger.

«The Church, on the contrary, is, as it always was, a true champion of human reason, capable of reaching not only mathematical truths or truths of the natural physical sciences, but also the ultimate truths about humanity.»

Archbishop Lajolo made three requests of European Christians: competence, a humble boldness of their faith and initiative.

«It is necessary to go out, and not to be afraid of the usual accusations of fundamentalism, clericalism, fideism or the like, that are often aimed at us by those who are tainted by these ‘isms,'» he said.

Inferiority complex

«Christians must not suffer from any inferiority complex; there is no thought or political doctrine which should make us feel that we lag behind with the passing of time,» he emphasized. «If others boast of the contribution of the Enlightenment, Christians know that they are ‘sons of light and sons of the day.'»

«If others boast of the power of rationalism, Christians are ready to carry on discussions with all, based on valid arguments in the light of reason alone, but they also know that there are ‘reasons of the heart which reason cannot know,'» he said, quoting philosopher Blaise Pascal. «True reason knows its own limits.»

Archbishop Lajolo then proposed a humble boldness «because ours is a treasure in earthen vessels, and it cannot be communicated but in humility. For this reason, Peter, in his exhortation to give the reasons for our hope, adds that this must be done with sweetness and respect.»

Finally, the Vatican secretary for relations with states called for initiative among Christians.

«An awareness of the values which one bears can lead to nothing other than seeking results by putting them into practice,» he said. «One must seek the ways, both those already opened to all and thus also to Christians, and those to be discovered and to be opened, in order to advance the Christian message.

«This is not only a particular competence for Christians who have a public role, but also for all Christians who have the power of voting. Christians cannot lament the inconsistency of those elected if they themselves, as electors, are inconsistent in their voting.»

«In contemporary pluralistic and ideologically diverse societies,» the archbishop added, «Christians must know how to measure and gather their own forces, and then unite their forces to those of other men and women of good will, in the search for a Europe which will be worthy of the spiritual heritage which our fathers have left us, in the search for a Europe as it was dreamed by the great spirits of the twentieth century.»

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