03/25/2007, 00.00
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Pope: Europe’s apostasy, cynicism and compromises

Fifty years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, Benedict XVI turns to the present and the future of Europe, a continent that has come a long way, but one that is committing suicide from the point of view of demographics and ideals. Once a spark of universal values Europe now hails compromises and cynicism, stifling Christian voices. Hence, today all Christians must work together to build a new Europe.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Europe is moving towards ‘self-apostasy,” forgetting the “universal and absolute values” which it once sparked. As it demographically implodes, it might have reached its “twilight in history,” “losing its confidence in its own future,” this according to Benedict XV. In a passionate analysis of the current state of the old continent the Holy Father spoke to participants of a congress about the Treaties of Rome, titled “Values and Perspectives for Europe’s future,” sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

In his address he highlighted the many positive aspects that European integration has brought about like the fall of the “curtain of injustice” between east and west, the reconciliation of Europe’s eastern and western “lungs”, the search of “economic integration” and an “appropriate institutional structure” for the European Union “which now includes 27 members and aspires to a global role in the world.”

Another important issue that the Pontiff highlighted was “the need for a better balance” between “wealth,” “competitiveness” and “the legitimate expectations of the poor and the marginalised.”

But Benedict XVI also slammed the attempt to build a “common house” by disregarding “the identities of the peoples” of the continent and dismissing Christianity “in which a vast majority continues to identify themselves.”

The Holy Father stressed the ambiguity that characterises the European Union in which the search for moral values and the common good takes place by means of “compromises” that involve agreements that are harmful to man’s nature,” thus betraying the role as “spark” and “yeast” of universal values the continent has always performed.

In the Pope’s opinion among the causes of the current situation, “pragmatism,” “relativism” and especially “secularism” stand out since because of them Christians see themselves denied “the right to intervene in public debates or at least with their contribution [treated] as an attempt to protect unjustified privileges.”

Finally, the Pontiff urged Christians to “strongly defend” the “truth of man” without being discouraged. “You know that with God’s help you must contribute to building a New Europe, one that is realistic without being cynical, rich in ideals, inspired by the everlasting and bright truth of the Gospel.”

Here is the full text of the Pope’s speech:

Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am particularly pleased to greet you in such great numbers at this Audience on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957. On that day an important step was taken in a Europe that had come out of World War Two beaten, a continent that sought a future of peace and greater social and economic prosperity in which nations would neither deny nor lose their identities. I am pleased to greet Mgr Adrianus Herman van Luyn, Bishop of Rotterdam and Chairman of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and thank him for his kind words. I am pleased to greet the other prelates, the distinguished guests and all those who are taking part in the congress currently under way sponsored by COMECE in order to reflect on Europe.

Since that month of March 50 years ago, this continent has gone a long way and this has led to the reconciliation of its eastern and Western halves, its two ‘lungs’, linked by a common history that a curtain of injustice had arbitrarily split. Economic integration has stimulated this political process and favoured the still ongoing and difficult search for an appropriate institutional structure for the European Union which now includes 27 members and aspires to exercise a global role in the world.

In recent years people have come understand more and more the need for a better balance between economic and social policies based on actions that can create wealth and increase competitiveness without disregarding the legitimate expectations of the poor and the marginalised. However, from a demographic point of view Europe seems to be on a path that might lead to its twilight in history. Not only does that threaten its economic growth but it could cause huge problems in terms of social cohesion, and especially favour a dangerous individualism that does not care about the future might have in store. One might even think that the European continent is losing confidence in its future. As for respect for the environment and a balanced access to resources and energy investments, there is little solidarity at both international and national levels. And the process of European unification itself does not seem welcome to everyone because many ‘chapters’ of the project seem to have been ‘written’ with little consideration for what people expect.

From all this it is clear that it is unthinkable that we can build an authentic “common European house” by disregarding the identities of the peoples of this continent of ours. It is an historical, cultural and moral identity even before it is a geographic, economic or political reality. It is an identity built on a set of universal values in which Christianity played a role in moulding them, which gives it a role that is not only historical but also foundational vis-à-vis Europe. Such values, which constitute the continent’s soul, must continue in the Europe of the third millennium as a ‘spark’ of civilisation. Should they fail, how could the “old” continent play the role of “yeast” for the whole world? If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the governments of the Union want to be “closer” to their citizens, how can they exclude from Europe’s identity an essential element like Christianity in which a vast majority continues to identify themselves? Is it surprising then, that whilst it aspires to be a community of values, modern Europe seems to question universal and absolute values? Even before it is against God, doesn’t this singular form of ‘self-apostasy’ not lead the continent to doubt its own identity? We end up this way spreading the view that ‘judging the goods’ is the only way for moral judgment and that having a common good is synonymous with compromise. In reality, if reaching compromises is a legitimate act of balancing different interests, it becomes a common evil every time it involves agreements that are harmful to man’s nature.

A community that is built without respect for the authentic dignity of human beings, that forgets that each person is created in God’s image, ends up not doing any one any good. This is why it is seems ever more necessary that Europe be wary of that widespread pragmatic attitude that systematically justifies compromising on essential human values as if accepting an allegedly lesser evil inevitable. Ultimately such pragmatism is not as balanced and realistic as some might have it because it denies human nature its inherent value-oriented and idealistic dimensions. When on such pragmatism are grafted secular and relativistic tendencies and currents, we end up with Christians as such being denied the right to intervene in public debates or at least with their contribution dismissed as an attempt to protect unjustified privileges. In the present historical moment and its many challenges, if the European Union is to uphold the rule of law and effectively promote universal values, we must clearly recognise that human nature has something stable and permanent to it and that it is the source of common rights for all individuals, including even those who deny them. In this context, the right to conscientious objection must be safeguarded every time fundamental human rights are violated.

Dear friends, I know how difficult it is for Christians to indefatigably defend the truth of man. Never be weary, nor be discouraged! You know that with God’s help you shall contribute to building a New Europe, one that is realistic without being cynical, rich in ideals, inspired by the everlasting and bright truth of the Gospel. For this reason never shy away from European public debates and be aware that Europe is already a part of what goes on at the national level. In addition, take effective actions in the cultural sphere. Do not submit to the logic of power for power’s sake! Let Christ’s warning be a constant stimulus and support: ‘But if salt loses its taste [. . .] It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (cf Mt 5: 13). May the Lord make all your efforts fruitful and help you recognise the value of that which is positive in today’s civilisation; may it give courage to denounce all that is contrary to human dignity.

I am certain that God shall not fail to bless the generous effort of those, in a spirit of service, work to build a common European house in which every cultural, social and political contribution is geared towards the common good. To you, who are already involved in various ways in that important human and evangelical enterprise, I direct my strongest encouragement. In particular, I assure you that I shall remember you in my prayers and, whilst I invoke the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh, I give you, your families and communities in a heartfelt manner my most affectionate blessing.

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