ZAGREB, Croatia, SEPT. 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging the bishops of Europe to work for the defense of the family and human life, and to fight against intolerance and discrimination of Christians.
The Pope sent a telegram, through his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to participants in a plenary assembly of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences.
The assembly began today in Zagreb, and will focus on the theme, “Demographics and the Family in Europe.” It will end Sunday.
In the telegram, the Pontiff encouraged the prelates “to continue the important work undertaken and inspire in the Church communities the necessary commitment so that the faithful might be free from intolerance and discrimination and to promote the family and the defense of human life.”
He assured the participants of his prayers “so that the providential meeting may contribute to strengthening the bonds of unity and communion between the European bishops giving a further courageous thrust to the new evangelization of the continent.”
The Holy Father imparted “the requested apostolic blessing as a pledge of abundant Divine assistance.”
In his opening speech, Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the council and archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, offered an analysis of the situation in Europe.
“Europe, this continent in which many cultures have found the Gospel, and from where so many missionaries have set out to proclaim the Word to the ends of the earth, is today experiencing an identity crisis,” he noted.
“Europe needs God,” the prelate said, “to recall its own roots and therefore to look to the future with realism and hope.”
He noted, however, the challenges faced by Christians who attempt to share their faith with others.
In this light, the cardinal announced the birth of an “Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe,” which aims to “promote greater awareness of the forms of intolerance and discrimination which some Christians in Europe suffer, and in agreement with what was decided in our previous assemblies.”
He continued: “This observatory does not aim to be a tool for disputes, but an aid to create a society more respectful of religious freedom, more capable too of understanding and accepting both its own roots and the plural reality through a healthy secularism.
“In short, it is, on the one hand, a help to modern evangelization, and, on the other, a help to the development of an authentic democracy based on equality in our continent.”
Cardinal Erdo underlined “the urgency of the new evangelization,” which “has always been [the council’s] main aim.” He pointed to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, recently established by Benedict XVI, as “a clear sign of the Holy Father’s judgement about this urgency.”
The prelate noted that “a clear consequence of the unease in our society is also present in the question which we want to tackle in greater depth over these days: demographics and its necessary link to the question of the family.”
“The family’s state of health is an image of the health of society and vice versa,” he added.
The cardinal affirmed that “the family and life are an integral part of God’s plan and they are God’s way of making us anticipate full communion with him.”
He continued, “The beauty of love between a man and a woman, who for the whole of their lives unite and make of their love a gift to also welcome and educate new people, is and will always be the most beautiful image of God.”
“The Church calls for policies to be put in place which are appropriate to the real needs of the family and asks that concrete aid measures be always more consistent and effective to the reality of the family,” Cardinal Erdo stated.
“However,” he added, “perhaps what is missing the most in our society and also in our families, are not solutions for solving immediate problems, even if this can be sometimes necessarily urgent, but above all the enthusiasm is missing, the energy which God gives us if we live in him.”
In working for the good of the family, the prelate acknowledged the “great harmony both in the anthropological and in the theological reasons that support the Christian vision of the family and the urgent need to protect it between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches.”
He concluded by expressing the hope that this annual meeting of the bishops will be one of “intense reflection” for the good of the family and European society, but also “of prayer and friendship.”