VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II greeted the Salesian superiors who are currently gathered to study the challenges in Europe facing their religious family and the Church.
Before taking leave of the pilgrims gathered today in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope, speaking from the window of his study, greeted the Salesian inspectors of Europe, who attended the midday Angelus with their rector major, Father Pascual Chávez.
“Beloved, through you my thoughts go to all the Salesian family, which I bless from my heart,” the Holy Father said.
Last Wednesday, the rector major opened the meeting of the Salesian provincials of Europe.
In his address, Father Chávez explained that the meeting aimed, in part, to exam the social, political, economic, cultural and religious situation of Europe in order to recognize and respond to current challenges, the Salesian International News Agency reported.
The rector major presented an analysis of the current situation of Europe. He said that, after the deep wounds of World War II, the continent had wanted to turn a fresh page under the inspiration of the “founding fathers of the new Europe,” so as to establish a different land: “reconciled, united, free, democratic and mutually supportive, while respecting the autonomy of each country.”
Father Chávez went on to point out some negative aspects: the lack of a clear definition of what Europe is, and the rise of moral relativism.
“The greatest concern is the conviction that behind the current anti-Catholic secularism there is the idea that humanism and Christianity are mutually exclusive,” he said. “Even more, that between Catholic Christianity and the principles to be found in Europe as an institution there is a fundamental incompatibility.”
Some negative elements result from this, he said, such as “the irrelevance of the Church, the breakdown of the family, a break in the link between the transmission of the faith and of values, a rejection of everything Catholic.”
Father Chávez then focused on the biblical icon of the foundation of the Church of Antioch, which faced the need to welcome and evangelize the uncircumcised, the pagans.
According to Father Chávez, there are affinities between the Church of Antioch and today’s Church in Europe: They are communities in which there is a variety of peoples, languages, cultures, races, but always a community of individuals in which are found “problems of a disciplinary and doctrinal nature.”
Like Barnabas with the Christians of Antioch, “we are gathered here together, to identify the real situation of the new Europe, to take up the challenges it presents, to weigh up the resources available, in order to establish the nature and the place of a future Salesian presence.”
The rector major encouraged the Salesians to overcome all pessimism and to assume the Gospel approach of hope to continue the work of evangelization and education.
“The faith, the Gospel, the Salesian charism are a patrimony that we must hand on since they are a gift from God to the Church and to the young,” he said. “It is my hope that we can come out from this historic meeting convinced that we indeed have a future.”