Pope dreams of an open and supportive Europe, respectful of people, healthily secular
Francis releases a letter to mark several European anniversaries. “Christians today have a great responsibility: they are called to serve as a leaven in reviving Europe’s conscience and help to generate processes capable of awakening new energies in society.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis wrote a letter to the Vatican Secretary of State Card Pietro Parolin on the 40th anniversary of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the European Union, the 50th anniversary of the presence of the Holy See as Permanent Observer at the Council of Europe, and the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration.
In the letter, which was supposed to coincide with a visit by Cardinal Parolin to Brussels that was cancelled because of the ongoing pandemic, the Holy Father writes about his "dreams" of a Europe based on solidarity, open to those in need, in which everyone’s dignity is respected, a Europe that is a supportive family and a generous community, a welcoming and hospitable place, a “Europe marked by a healthy secularism, where God and Caesar remain distinct but not opposed.”
The pandemic, writes Francis, “has emerged as a kind of a watershed, forcing us to take a stand. We can either continue to pursue the path we have taken in the past decade, yielding to the temptation to autonomy and thus to ever greater misunderstanding, disagreement and conflict, or we can rediscover the path of fraternity that inspired and guided the founders of modern Europe”.
The pontiff urges Europe to "find yourself”, citing Pope John Paul II when he spoke in Santiago de Compostela in 1982. “Europe, find yourself! Rediscover your most deeply-rooted ideals. Be yourself! Do not be afraid of your millenary history, which is a window open to the future more than the past.”
“What kind of Europe do we envision for the future? What is to be its distinctive contribution? In today’s world, it is not about recovering political hegemony or geographical centrality, or about developing innovative solutions to economic and social problems. The uniqueness of Europe rests above all on its conception of the human being and of reality, on its capacity for initiative and on its spirit of practical solidarity.
“I dream, then, of a Europe that is a friend to each and all. A land respectful of everyone’s dignity, in which each person is appreciated for his or her intrinsic worth and not viewed purely from an economic standpoint or as a mere consumer. A land that protects life at every stage, from the time it arises unseen in the womb until its natural end, since no human being is the master of life, either his or her own life or the lives of others. A land that promotes work as a privileged means of personal growth and the pursuit of the common good, creating employment opportunities particularly for the young.
“Being a friend to others entails providing for their education and cultural development. It entails protecting the weakest and most vulnerable, especially the elderly, the sick in need of costly care, and those with disabilities. Being a friend to others entails defending their rights, but also reminding them of their duties.”
“I dream of a Europe that is a family and a community. A place respectful of the distinctiveness of each individual and every people, ever mindful that they are bound together by shared responsibilities. Being a family entails living in unity, treasuring differences, beginning with the fundamental difference between man and woman. In this sense, Europe is a genuine family of peoples, all different yet linked by a common history and destiny.”
“We are faced with the choice between a model of life that discards people and things, and an inclusive model that values creation and creatures.
“I dream of a Europe that is inclusive and generous. A welcoming and hospitable place in which charity, the highest Christian virtue, overcomes every form of indifference and selfishness.”
“Solidarity is also nurtured by generosity and gives rise to gratitude, which leads us to regard others with love. When we forget to be thankful for the benefits we have received, we tend increasingly to close in upon ourselves and to live in fear of everything around us and different from us.
“We can see this in the many fears felt in our contemporary societies, among which I would mention uneasiness and concern about migrants. Only a Europe that is a supportive community can meet the present challenge in a productive way, since piecemeal solutions have proved to be inadequate. It is clear that a proper acceptance of migrants must not only assist those newly arrived, who are often fleeing conflict, hunger or natural disasters, but must also work for their integration, enabling them ‘to learn, respect and assimilate the culture and traditions of the nations that welcome them’.
“I dream of a Europe marked by a healthy secularism, where God and Caesar remain distinct but not opposed. A land open to transcendence, where believers are free to profess their faith in public and to put forward their own point of view in society.
“The era of confessional conflicts is over, but so too – let us hope – is the age of a certain laicism closed to others and especially to God, for it is evident that a culture or political system that lacks openness to transcendence proves insufficiently respectful of the human person.”
“Christians today have a great responsibility: they are called to serve as a leaven in reviving Europe’s conscience and help to generate processes capable of awakening new energies in society. I urge them, therefore, to contribute with commitment, courage and determination to every sector in which they live and work.”