Papal Address to European Community Envoy

“That Europe Not Allow its Model of Civilization to Be Eroded”

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Yves Gazzo, new head of the delegation of the Commission of European Communities to the Holy See.

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Mr. Ambassador,
I am happy to receive you, Excellency, and to accredit you as Representative of the Commission of the European Communities to the Holy See. I would be grateful if you would express to Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, who has just been re-elected as head of the commission, my cordial wishes for his person and for the mandate entrusted to him, and also for all his collaborators.
This year Europe commemorates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wished to honor this event in a particular way, traveling to the Czech Republic. In that land, tested by the yoke of a painful ideology, I was able to give thanks for the gift of recovered liberty, which has allowed the European Continent to find its integrity and unity again.
You, Mr. Ambassador, have described the European Union as “an area of peace and stability that brings together 27 States with the same fundamental values.” It is a happy description. And yet, it is right to observe that the European Union has not gifted itself with these values, but rather it has been these shared values that made it come to birth and be the force of gravity that has attracted to the nucleus of the founding countries the different nations that subsequently have adhered to it, in the course of time.

These values are the fruit of a long and torturous history in which, no one can deny, Christianity has played a major role. The same equality of all human beings, the liberty of the act of faith as root of the other civil liberties, peace as the decisive element of the common good, of human development — intellectual, social and economic — in so far as divine vocation (cfr. “Caritas in Veritate,” Nos. 16-19), and the meaning of history derived from it, are a few of many other central elements of Christian Revelation that continue to mold European civilization.
When the Church recalls the Christian roots of Europe, she is not seeking a privileged status for herself. She wishes to make a historical memorial reminding in the first place of a truth — increasingly relegated to silence — namely, to the decidedly Christian inspiration of the Founding Fathers of the European Union. At a more profound level, she also wishes to show that the basis of the values comes above all from the Christian heritage that continues to nourish it even today.
These common values are not an anarchic or accidental aggregate, but form a coherent whole that is ordered and articulated, historically, from a precise anthropological vision. Can Europe omit the original organic principle of these values that, at the same time, have revealed to man his eminent dignity and the fact that his personal vocation opens him to all other men, with whom he is called to build only one family?

Does allowing oneself to be led by this forgetfulness not mean to expose oneself to the risk of seeing these great and beautiful values enter into competition or conflict with one another? More than that, do these values not run the risk of being instrumentalized by individuals and pressure groups desirous of furthering particular interests in detriment of an ambitious collective project — which Europeans expect — which is concerned with the common good of the inhabitants of the Continent and of the whole world? This risk was perceived and criticized by numerous observers that belong to very different horizons. It is important that Europe not allow its model of civilization to be eroded, bit-by-bit. Its original impulse must not be suffocated by individualism and utilitarianism.
The immense intellectual, cultural and economic resources of the Continent will continue to bear fruit if they continue to be fertilized by the transcendent vision of the human person, which is the most precious treasure of European heritage. This humanist tradition, in which so many families of different thoughts recognize themselves, makes Europe capable of addressing the challenges of tomorrow and of responding to the population’s expectations.

It is primarily the search for a just and delicate balance between economic efficiency and social exigencies, the safeguarding of the environment and, above all, the indispensable and necessary support to human life from conception to natural death, and to the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman. Europe will be really itself only if it is able to preserve the originality that has constituted its greatness, and this is capable of making of it, in the future, one of the principal actors in the promotion of the integral development of persons, which the Catholic Church regards as the genuine way able to remedy the present imbalances of our world.
For all these reasons, Mr. Ambassador, the Holy See follows with respect and great attention the activity of European institutions, hoping that the latter, with their work and creativity, will honor Europe that, more than a continent, is a “spiritual home” (cfr. Address to the Civil Authorities and to the Diplomatic Corps, Prague, Sept. 26, 2009). The Church wishes to “accompany” the construction of the European Union. For this reason, she allows herself to remind you of the fundamental and constitutive values of European society, so that they can be promoted for the good of all.
As you begin your mission to the Holy See, I wish to reaffirm my satisfaction for the excellent relations maintained by the European Community and the Holy See and I express to you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes for the good development of your noble task. Be assured of finding in my collaborators the reception and understanding of which you might be in need.
On you, Excellency, on your family and on your collaborators, I invoke from my heart the abundance of divine blessings.
 [Translation by ZENIT]

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