ROME, OCT. 28, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The contribution of Christians in Europe does not have the impact that their numbers would suggest, says a former rector of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
Monsignor Lluis Clavell was one of the scheduled speakers at last weekend’s second General Assembly of the Convention of Christians for Europe, in Krakow, Poland.
In this interview, Monsignor Clavell shares the essential points of his talk on “Ecclesia in Europa,” the postsynodal apostolic exhortation published by John Paul II last June. The document emphasizes the need for citizens, especially Christians, to participate in the making of Europe.
Q: Why is the apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Europa” so important?
Monsignor Clavell: A colleague of mine said expressively that a European pastor — yet, this is true for all Christians given their vocation to the apostolate — should hold in one hand the programmatic document for this millennium, “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” which includes the important priorities of the Church at this historical moment, and in the other “Ecclesia in Europa,” which offers an in-depth view of the European cultural scene.
Q: Has Europe given up its fundamental values?
Monsignor Clavell: On November 9, 1982, from Santiago de Compostela, the Pope addressed the whole of Europe, saying: “Return to yourself. Be yourself. Discover your origins. Revive your roots.”
It is no surprise that hope is also the profound leitmotif of “Ecclesia in Europa”: “Do not be afraid! The Gospel is not against you but for you. It is confirmed by the fact that Christian inspiration can transform political, cultural and economic integration into a coexistence where all Europeans will feel at home and form a family in which other regions of the world will be inspired for their benefit.”
For John Paul II, it is vital that Europe recover hope and overcome the decadence that threatens it, so that it can continue to spread the great ideals of yore to the human person, which God has willed to manifest superabundantly through the life and teachings of Christ.
Q: Don’t you think that Christians in Europe lack a forceful voice?
Monsignor Clavell: Indeed, the Convention of Christians for Europe attempts to contribute to a better conception of the new Constitutional Treaty for the European Union, and to give voice in public life to Christians citizens, and with them to so many others who appreciate the grandeur of the human person: a voice that can be heard within the context of the complex structure of present-day society and in the larger context of the European Union, where there is a greater risk that persons will be manipulated in their isolation.
This voice is necessary, regardless of the statistics on the number of Christians — including Christians of more or less conviction or practice — which are useful and necessary, but difficult to interpret and only of relative importance.
What is decisive is that there are citizens who are committed to incarnating a consistent life with personal dignity, and in transmitting with their lives hope for the future to a continent with symptoms of internal exhaustion. This is why they need a voice which today they are lacking almost completely.
Q: Lay people are very busy with family and work to be able to involve themselves in public affairs. How can this reality be mitigated?
Monsignor Clavell: Many men and women, also Christians, plan their life thinking, precisely, of the family and work. However, they forget that they must also contribute with time, study and energy to the configuration of society.
It is not just neglect, but the fact that today life does not allow one to transcend the intense pace required by the family and work.
In addition to the recent document on the participation of the laity in public life, “Ecclesia in Europa” has reaffirmed the capital importance of inspiring vocations at the service of the common good — persons who, following the example and style of those called “Fathers of the European Union” will be able to build the society of the future on a solid spiritual foundation. Moreover, it calls for pedagogical programs to help the laity to work in these tasks.
Among the many personal memories I have from having worked with St. Josemaría Escrivá, is the way he stimulated Christian lay people to take an active part in a variety of associations, in order to participate in decisions on which the present and future of humanity depend.
Q: So, then, are Europeans involved or not in the making of Europe?
Monsignor Clavell: The draft of the Constitutional Treaty has an interesting article on participatory democracy, placed after the one referring to representative democracy. In the Convention’s group of scientific consultants, we have talked about organizing an initiative to reflect on this subject. A good redaction of that article would be a practical instrument to this end.
Obviously, the task does not end there, because it is necessary to overcome the worst enemy: the apathy of citizens or their sheltering in private life.
With a wide historical horizon, encompassing at least 50 or 100 years, “Ecclesia in Europa” addresses the subject of formation, which is undoubtedly one of the most important problems at present. It is critical to articulate legislation with the greatest possible justice, but what is still more important is that the new evangelization be carried out, and that the daily life of Europeans be imbued with the ideals mentioned.
The greatest problem for a profoundly human European Union is not so much the external obstacles as it is the internal personal weakness of European citizens and Christian communities. The exhortation calls for an examination of conscience to specifically acknowledge our defects, limits and faults.