ROME, FEB. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome comes at a critical time for the European Union, says the president of an association that seeks to counteract anti-Catholic sentiment in politics.
Giorgio Salina, president of the Association of the Europe Foundation, told ZENIT that “the winds blowing in Europe, beyond the official statements, are certainly not the best for the future of the union.”
However, Salina said, a congress organized by the bishops of Europe on the future of the union is “a great opportunity for Christians to launch a lofty, strong and clear message to European women and men of good will for the resumption of the community process with renewed vigor.”
The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, known as COMECE, has organized a congress in Rome March 13-25 to mark the anniversary of the treaty which laid the groundwork for the current European Union.
He said a preliminary condition for continued progress “is a return to the spirit, ideals and hopes of the founding fathers.”
Salina said that Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi and Robert Schuman were three men “with a great desire for peace and fraternity to be made concrete in an economic, social and political collaboration.”
He added that they were also “three Catholic Christians with a great and clear awareness of the common good for which nationalist egoisms must be sacrificed, but also statesmen gifted with great political realism and wide vision.”
According to Salina, two other preliminary conditions to return to that spirit and those ideals are secularism and subsidiarity.
He said that the secularism must be one that “moves from positions of rejection to positions of neutrality, so that public institutions enjoy the democratic collaboration of the Churches and of confessional realities, of cultural and philosophical associations, of all the cultural positions, and therefore also of Christianity, which in a great measure has contributed to make Europe what it is today.”
Salina said that “without this tradition and history, we have a Europe without a soul which does not recognize itself. There is no future without an awareness of what one is.”
In regard to subsidiarity, Salina explained that “it must not be only ‘vertical’ among community institutions, individual states and local powers, but also ‘horizontal’ between political power at different levels and society in its different articulations.”
Another key point for the relaunching of Europe, according to Salina, is “religious liberty as a result of a correctly understood secularism, and of subsidiarity concretely carried out.”
He said that he was convinced that religious liberty will have certain positive repercussions for democracy: “Respect of the religious liberty of individuals and of their aggregations is in fact index and guarantee of respect fundamental human rights, implying freedom of thought, of expression, of aggregation, of education and of many more.”
Salina said that “religious liberty guarantees the correct application of all the cultural positions of a fundamental democratic principle: ‘I will refute what you say, but I will fight so that you can say it.'”
In the end, he said, “religious liberty favors the constructive contribution of religious people to the full realization of a modern democracy of all in the service of all, recovering ethical principles and the sense of responsibility.”
Back to the beginnings
Salina said these conditions “can favor the recovery of Europe, with the courageous ideal drive of the beginning, of an international role in favor of peace which especially the countries of the South call for and expect.”
“All this is not an easy path,” said Salina, “it is certainly strewn with difficulties, but precisely because of this it is necessary to recover the reasons that have made it a ‘necessity,’ that have verified the lack of alternatives to the path undertaken 50 years ago.”
He said that “it is necessary to restore conditions of collaboration to find the common way, even if it is in the frank and hard confrontation between different cultures.”
Salina added: “If these conditions had not been established in the beginning, no one would have even started on the path, because there were difficulties and unknowns also then and perhaps greater ones.”