Minsk, Belarus, June 2-6, 2014
The Church and the Rebuilding of the Moral Foundations of Europe
1. Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, brothers in the priesthood, respected representatives of the Belarusian State authorities, brothers and sisters in Christ! I warmly welcome you to Minsk, for these crucial discussions on the grave problems currently facing the European continent. It is crucial that we meet in order to share views and seek theoretical and practical solutions, which both the Catholic and the Orthodox Church need to face together as the two lungs of European civilization. It is my belief that the challenges and crisis of our post-modern era must be dealt with, by leaders of our Churches and the faithful in all realms in which this crisis presents itself. The crisis before us today is not only political and economic but first of all ethical and spiritual. What is at stake is therefore more than just the moral behavior of Europeans; what is at stake, is the survival of European civilization.
Europe must be understood as far more than a geographical reality. Europe is a system of values, principles, foundational notions and institutions that have arisen historically from the common Judeo-Christian heritage of both East and West. Europe’s greek philosophical patrimony and the roman legacy that was preserved after the collapse of the empire were preserved and purified by the Judeo-Christian tradition and its followers to produce a civilization that transformed humanity. European civilization has given humanity some of the highest, spiritual, moral, cultural, artistic and political achievements the human race has ever seen.
Its civilizational frontiers extend beyond what is known today as the European Union and it rightfully includes many ancient lands of a non-Western tradition. These lands and nations have contributed and greatly enriched our common European heritage. It is fundamental to recall the importance of the heritage of Byzantium to the birth and riches of Europe.
The Bizantine tradition is a most vital component of our European civilization. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote of this second crucial component of Europe in these terms: “there is also a second root of Europe, of a non-Western Europe…To be sure, there were still sufficient unifying elements to make one continent out of these two worlds: In the first place their common heritage of the Bible and the early Church…their common basic understanding of the Church…also the common fund of ideas concerning law and legal instruments; finally I should also mention monasticism, which among the great movements of history had remained the essential guarantor not only of cultural continuity, but above all of fundamental religious and moral values, of man’s awareness of his ultimate destiny; and as a force prior and superior to political authority”1.
I was blessed to serve as the Catholic Archbishop in Russia and feel that it is fundamental to acknowledge the wider sense of a cultural and spiritual understanding of where European civilization lies today. Furthermore that is known also today as the West, is also clearly a product of European civilization taking root and mediated by different religion and cultural realities.
One could easily state that the currant vision of Europe finds itself in competition with powerful forces that seem intent on eradicating the historical roots of Europe and forcing a secular and non-Christian Europe as their political and cultural goal for our nations. The refusal of certain European political ideologies, to include the Judeo-Christian tradition in the preamble to the European Constitution was a rewriting of history, and the denial of the truth and culture of European civilization.
2. Post-modern Europe is characterized by significant changes not only in politics and economics, but also in the spiritual life. We see everywhere, but most acutely in Western Europe the devaluation of the spiritual, moral, philosophical and cultural foundations of Europe causing a radical shift in world views and this paradigmatic shift has unfortunately become the daily bread for today’s people in Europe.
As a result, Europe is losing its Christian identity and becoming more secular. The Church, as the guardian of morality, cannot stand on the sidelines. We must find models to emulate in our day. I find inspiration and courage in men such a Saint John Paul II. Because of his uncompromising stance on moral values and his courageous proclamation of the truth, he was called the voice of conscience in the modern world.
Pope Benedict XVI has always posed those basic questions about God, salvation, hope, life, and morality. He preached the truth with the knowledge that we must serve God first, even if we become a sign of contradiction, in our present culture. A compromise cannot be reached between these two incompatible visions of Europe. The godless Europe which so many Western political elites are trying to impose is dangerous and is the cause of much of the crisis we are witnessing in Europe today. He warned repeatedly that democracies without values soon become enemies of freedom. Pope Benedict was indeed rightly known as the prophet of our difficult times, who fearlessly preached the truth.
Pope Benedict rightly identified this evil as the “dictatorship of relativism”. The ideological obstinacy of many elites in Europe is causing what many have rightly called a democratic deficit in Europe where law, justice and truth are constantly being subverted and unjust laws and economic pressures are being imposed on entire populations of the European continent, to achieve ideological goals, of a Europe without God or truth.
Now, just after a little more than a year of the pontificate of Pope Francis, the Holy Father has proclaimed the message of the Gospel in a new and intriguing way, responding to the spiritual hungering the world, bringing to it new hope and meaning. The Holy Father calls for a pastoral and missionary conversion in order to restore faith in our day.
In a similar spirit, the leaders of the Orthodox Church are very much preoccupied with the current loss of morals and faith in the modern world. Around the world the Orthodox Church has been raising the alarm of the crisis that is afflicting our civilization. I praise and thank them for fearlessly, on so many occasions, bringing the message of salvation to the world. Thank you. The common preoccupation with the moral state of Europe and the desire for a spiritual rebirth unites us and gives a good perspective to help solve the problem.
3. Let us make a short analysis of the moral situation in Europe, as it is now, where people of different faiths, believers and non-believers, those who are in favor of religion and those who are against, live alongside each other.
It seems to me, we have to know where exactly the spiritual life of Europe stands today. To heal an illness and to prescribe medicines, physicians first of all have to know the patient’s state of health. The same is true of our situation; we have to examine the conscience of our continent.
What are the most dangerous symptoms of the moral illness in Europe? I say symptoms because the causes of the crisis are much deeper and have been taking place for centuries, through the erosion of the philosophical and theological foundations of our civilization.
3.1. First of all the crisis of Europe is a crisis of the family. The family is the beginning and basis of society, its first and vital cell, as the II Vatican Council states2. The most basic truths about the family are now being called into question and many are trying to subvert in actual law the institution that sustains all political communities: the family. The Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church states, that “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership for the whole of life, is by its nature ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring”3. “The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility”4.
Unfortunately, across Europe as well as in many other countries, completely different situations have taken hold. Divorce has become a common thing. In many countries marriage is declared as a union between two people of any gender and homosexual unions have been legalized in many European countries. In such cases the right is also given to such couples to adopt children, which in turn will transmit to future generations these ideological attitudes. This error perpetrates a grave injustice against the child who has a natural right to a father and a mother. This new ideology is today an open attack on the universally known truths, by faith and by reason, of the meaning of the human family. It openly contradicts not only reason but an institution created by God and thus truths instilled into the heart of every human being. All this happens under the influence of powerful secular ideologies which are based on moral relativism and the legacy of philosophical post modernity. These ideologies insist that absolute moral values do not exist. There are no facts, only interpretations are the postmodern creed or relativism.
This is coupled with the erroneous idea of freedom, which teaches that if somebody does not violate the rights of others, he can live according to his own desires.
But even more basic matters are now seriously called into question. The ideology of “gender” has been deliberately introduced into the life of European society. Accordingly, the words “man” or “woman” refer not to the sexuality of the person, but rather to a subjective role which people choose for themselves, and if desired, one that they can change.
This ideology has gone as far as stating, that parents are no longer to be designated as “mother” and “father”, to whom the Lord gives the child, to be raised and cared for, not only materially but to be taught the truth about life and reality and furthermore to be taught the faith that saves. Some are arguing that simply two people who may be of the same sex suffice, and that therefore they don’t necessarily need to be called “mother” and “father”. They can today just be called “parent number one” and “parent number two” or whatever other term is considered politically correct and fitting. Such a unity is called by many in Europe, the family, and is to be considered equal to marriage with all its rights. But this ideology is flatly contradicted by science, reason, morals and Divine revelation. We must not be afraid to openly defend the rights of the child and the true identity of the family.
Therefore both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches face today a great task – the public defense and revival of the God given institution of the family. This will take courage as powerful lobbies are seeking to silence anyone who will dare teach this simple truth, a truth that has been known for thousand of years and one upon which our entire European civilization built and preserved.
3.2. Europe is also experiencing an unprecedented demographic crisis. It is, first of all, a result of devaluation of God’s most precious gift of life and the searching for pleasure. It is our duty as shepherds to seek to move our faithful and the competent authorities to end the scourge of abortion in our continent. The victims of abortion worldwide by far outnumber the worst tragedies seen in Europe in the XXth century. No rights in a democracy can be preserved for long, if the first and most important right, the right to life, is being violated. This should be indeed a goal of our common effort, to seek to ban the cruel and inhuman practice of abortion from the European continent. This new form of slavery and torture violates all that is good and sacred about our civilization. Every human being regardless of race, religion, gender, or political creed, must be protected. From the first moment it is identified as a member of the human specie. Science incontrovertibly demonstrated what the faith always taught that from the moment of conception a new member of the human species is present and must therefore have the integrity of his body, no matter haw small, protected by the law. The recent unilateral decision of the European Council, which ignored the millions of signatures collected in the citizen’s petition, “One of us”, is another clear democratic deficit of Europe. Where powerful elites, arbitrarily ignore the will of European citizens and impose by procedural violence their ideological goals.
The great crisis of Europe is mostly not financial but spiritual and moral.
Furthermore the immoral use of scientific achievements, especially in genetics, has led to a tragic manipulation and commercialization of human life. Where human beings are treated as the personal property of the strong – human life sold, and destroyed at will in what has become an industry for the traffic of human life. True structures of sin as Saint John Paul II, had warned.
Some European countries have unbelievably approved laws allowing euthanasia, including for children, as is the case in Belgium. The unthinkable, but logical follows: if you allow human beings to be devalued to the degree that you can kill them in the womb, then killing them after they are born should make no logical difference. This descent of human civilization to pre-Christian times shows the depth of the crisis which Europe is facing today.
Europe which was constituted as a great civilization of life is today being swallowed up by a “culture” of death. This lethal path is leading to the gradual extinction of the European people. This is all a direct consequence of an ideology aimed at the destruction of the family, which for several decades was inculcated in the minds of people. This ideology is suicidal not metaphorically but literally for the entire European population.
Our Churches have to do all that is possible to defend and promote life. If Europe wants to be once again great, it has to defend life!
3.3. Other social challenges need to also be taken into account. Due to the increasing number of migrants and refugees, cultural and religious diversity in our continent is changing every day. Therefore, it is a special challenge for all of us to bring about an inter-religious and intercultural dialogue that while respecting others, proudly upholds our culture, laws and institutions.
3.4. Migration is becoming one of the most important issues of Europe today. Migrants are very often subjected to immoral, unjust and discriminatory behavior and attitudes from authorities, political parties and native inhabitants, must be informed and educated in this regard.
At the same time, in the name of solidarity and human dignity, and out of love for every person, we have to open our doors and welcome those who are in material and spiritual need. Churches have to educate people to do this and to defend the rights of migrants. They too must be evangelized.
3.5. It sounds like a paradox, but in well-fed and contented Europe, poverty still exists. Our Christian duty is to help those who are in need. Every day, Pope Francis speaks about our common responsibility to do this. In every poor person we have to see the suffering Christ5. The problem of poverty raises the issues of social justice and solidarity. God will ask us what we did to address these issues, one day. Our corporal acts of mercy must accompany our spiritual acts of mercy. This common effort must have a proper balance.
These population shifts, on the one hand create adversity which enriches Europe, but on the other – it creates a lot of problems particularly if there are no efforts to establish mutual relations on the basis of mutual understanding, love and respect. Western Europe is already no longer a Catholic and Protestant land. Those days have passed. More and more minarets and prayer houses of different religions appear on the European landscape. The unfortunate idea, that all religions are equal and equally valid path of salvation, requires us to teach that although seeds of truth exist in these religions, Christ is the one mediator and Redeemer of all mankind.
Today in Europe, the chimes from the bells of Christian Church towers are also being diminished by the surrounding sky scrapers, in which huge corporations have built their offices, employing staff from around the world. We only have to see the corporate offices competing against the mighty dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in the city of London, or in many other cities of Europe, to see this in everyday life. Among them are believers and non-believers, atheists, those indifferent to religion and those who celebrate Sunday by spending time in shopping centers, stadiums, casinos and so on.
In such a reality, based on the principles of mutual respect and understanding, we have to learn and to teach others, how to live together in religious and cultural mix. But reciprocity and the due protection of Christians and their fundamental rights around the world is also part of our prophetic mission as Europeans. Christians around the world are suffering immense persecution especially in Islamic countries and we must seek and do all that is possible to protect them. Shepherds in the Church need to move out of the sacristies and cathedrals and speak openly in the public square, in the media, radio and television. We must prepare priests that are doctrinally sound and capable to likewise engage the popular mass media. European bishops and priests can no longer be confined. We must not allow the privatization of religion and the abandonment of the public square to continue.
3.6. An extremely great challenge for the Churches in Europe is the proper formation of young people. Our youth are the future of the Church and of Europe.
Young people today are educated by and through the media, and the influence of the media in their lives is very strong. Unfortunately, today’s media is a long way from moral standards and instead often propose a more liberal lifestyle. Influenced by this, most young people are not able to pay proper attention to their spiritual formation and morals.
Many of our young people are well educated and ambitious, but they often search only for immediate success and pleasure, they like to live in absolute freedom, often complaining that God’s law is restrictive. Very often they live according to the ideology of the crowd, living as others live, and not paying attention to the moral responsibility for their own actions. All these things lead to an immoral lifestyle, the deification of pre marital sexual relations, drug and alcohol addiction, sexual diseases including AIDS/HIV disease, they often fall prey to greed and gain, criminal acts and so on. We must be aware that we have a moral obligation to protect the youth and at present the youth of Europe is largely being corrupted by all these forces and ideologies. We must teach, we must reach them and we must speak publicly against all of these evils.
Our Churches have the great potential to exercise an even more effective pastoral care of young people and we have to use that potential by providing wisdom and guidance. We must accept that in many nations in Europe we have generations of unchtechized people and this largely through our own fault has become a most serious crisis in Europe.
3.7. Another challenge is the constant struggle to preserve and protect the dignity of the human person, which is very much denied by policy makers in Europe. According to Scripture, every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and appointed by Him as master of all earthly creatures6. By his very nature, man is a social being, and unless he relates himself to others, he can neither live nor develop his potential7.
According to the social teaching of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, every human being has the right to life, to a happy childhood and, to the extent that this is possible, to education, to work and to the fruits of his labors, to family life, and the basic protections that are needed to develop and flourish. We have to be voices for God in Europe: Voices that defend these rights and the human dignity of every life, from natural conception to natural death. I believe we must admonish especially Christian politicians who continue to pass legislation that undermines family life and the due respect for human rights. We cannot continue to ignore the fact that these politicians have a Christian duty and we have an obligation to correct them when they ignore their obligations. The Church must be free to preach the Gospel and therefore has to render public witness in our societies to oppose all these trends.
3.8. Dominating the modern world culture of today is also an insatiable consumerism, which can bring spiritual harm to people in today’s contemporary pseudo-Christian world. As a result, many are in real danger of becoming slaves to material things and pleasures, which can become a new god, which has to be served. It is duty of our Churches, to show people a higher vision, one that can free them from such slavery. We must show them that there is a transcendent meaning to life, and that the Christian way is the highest form of liberation and joy, they will ever experience.
3.9. Ethics in business, politics and the media requires more of the Church’s attention. The mass media has formed a new lifestyle, dominated by what is often referred to as the americanization and the macdonalization of society without any spiritual dimension. However, it must be noted that at the same time they can be very powerful means of evangelization. The problem of bringing to the masses the Gospel of Christ and the truth about man is not so much a question of techniques, social media and the rest. Social media is a useful tool. But the required work is the proper formation of priests to understand not so much communications but the philosophical, theological, economic and political ideologies of our day. I believe a robust philosophical formation is as needed today as much as a sound theological and spiritual formation. Priests must be acquainted with the high culture of Europe if they are to bring it back. They should be trained in sound economics and political philosophy to be successful in our day and age. They must have a rudimentary grasp of the sciences as the debate on all moral issues can also be fought on a reasoned basis since. This is important since so much of Europe today does not recognize the authority of the Church and Revelation.
3.10. Another major challenge for Europe is to maintain the peaceful coexistence of people of different religions and nationalities. From time to time terrorist acts shaken Europe and war is not hypothetical situation even after the tragedies of the First and Second World wars.
Even now we remember the tragedy that befell the Balkan nations in the 1990s, and of course today we are constantly reminded of the ongoing situation and crisis in Ukraine. These events and others, remind us once again of what man can sink to if he does not comply with the law to love God and his neighbor. Our common duty as Christians is to be defenders and promoters of peace. Pope Saint John XXIII set forth these criteria just over 50 years ago, and it is still a relevant message today as it was then.
4. Experiencing such situations I humbly submit that Europe can no longer be called Christian, but instead, a post Christian continent. And we don’t have to be surprised that this Forum invites us to pay attention to the responsibility of the Christian Churches in the moral rebuilding of Europe which is in a spiritual downward spiral. We have to look for the medicine with which to cure the spiritual world from this twenty-first century paganism.
In such a mosaic of different styles it can be very difficult to find stability, which we all need in order to understand the true meaning of our lives. The world is being changed before our very eyes. Europe is facing new challenges and at the same time looking for new opportunities in order to resolve our contemporary problems.
5. Such extreme and dynamic changes don’t allow Christians to remain any longer on the sidelines of modern life. For the Catholic Church it became clear in a very special way during the II Vatican Council, which was trying to respond to the questions of our modern times, particularly the question of what the Church says about herself when using for this purpose, the teaching of the Gospel.
The postconciliar teaching of the Church developed the doctrine of the II Vatican Council in this regard.
As a result, the Church understood that the modern world needs a new evangelization. It was one of the favorite themes of Saint John Paul II, which was further developed by Pope Benedict XVI and is now continued by Pope Francis. Saint John Paul II’s call to “Open the doors to Christ”8, at first seemed utopian, later it became the leading idea of the new evangelization.
The main goal of the new evangelization is the revival of faith and Christian witness in a world, which is losing hope, in Europe which is now experiencing financial, political, moral and social problems of great magnitude. In such situations there is a great need to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ and His Gospel and the truths found in human history, which are fulfilled in Christ. For the world to be vibrant again, in the context of its spiritual life, there is a need not only to baptize those who are converted, but to convert those who have been baptized.
6. An examination of the problems of the modern secular world shows that there is a great need to draw attention to the common responsibilities of the Christian Churches, especially of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Secularism, moral relativism and aggressive liberalism, freedom for everything and from everything in our time, at a time when many people are drawing away from their spiritual roots and live as if God did not exist, requires of all religions, especially Christians, solidarity and co-operation in order to work together to protect the spiritual and cultural foundations of Europe.
We have to be credible witnesses of Jesus Christ, the living Son of God who rose from the dead and revealed in Himself God’s face to the world. All Christians are called to perform this task by their vocation. For this very reason, we must, first of all, be united. Saint John Paul II in his Encyclical “Ut unum sint” –“All be one” says: “It is obvious that the lack of unity among Christians contradicts the Truth which Christians have the mission to spread, and consequently, it gravely damages their witness”9. His predecessor Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi” – “Proclaiming the Gospel” states, that “the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church ... At this point we wish to emphasize the sign of unity among all Christians as the way and instrument of evangelization. The division among Christians is a serious reality which impedes the very work of Christ”10.
Today, perhaps more than ever before, it is extremely important for Christians together to support the spiritual life of the world, through the gifts and charismas that rely on each other. A real treasure for Christianity is the Orthodox liturgy, the monastic life, mystical piety and theological thought, based on a living connection with the Eastern Fathers of the Church. The Catholic Church, in its turn, has such a treasury without which, it would be practically impossible, to give witness in the modern world. It’s diversity of monastic charismas acting in missions and societies, Eucharistic piety in common with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, Marian piety, the Church’s magisterium and the authority of the Pope over the voice of the world.
Christianity will have a greater impact on the entire world, if Christians in general will testify to the truth of the Gospel and fulfill their responsibility to the world. This requires a strengthening of our common Christian witness.
7. Speaking about the responsibility of Christian Churches regarding the rebuilding of the moral foundations of Europe, it seems appropriate to draw attention to the “Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization” (Note), prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
It is a very important document, which could be called the Magna Charta of the Catholic Church’s evangelizing mission in the modern world. The anthropological necessity of the proclamation of the Gospel in the modern world is presented in three interrelated aspects – anthropological, ecclesiological and ecumenical. In all three areas the Church must maintain its unique identity which is derived from God’s plan. The mission “ad gentes” is at the heart of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ and is a major challenge to all the People of God.
The Note repeats the teaching of the II Vatican Council, that a division among Christians openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature11. That is why the unity of Christ’s Church is a seal of our common Christian witness.
The Note pays attention to the next three steps of ecumenical dialogue. The first and main step is the ability and will to hear each other. The second is theological discussion, which leads to a better understanding of theological achievements, traditions and beliefs of other Churches. Finally, the third step is the common Christian witness of apostolic tradition and the essence of our faith. The Note invites Catholics to participate in the dialogue with other Christians with full respect and love. This dialogue has to be not only as sharing of ideas, but also of gifts12.
8. One of the goals of evangelization is to proclaim and defend Christian values in order to rebuild the moral life. The future of humanity depends on what values will be recognized as the most important. The battle that needs to be fought today is a battle of values and ideas. They are the values and ideas that on one side belong to religion, and right reason while on the other side we have those formed by secular humanism.
According to this new secular human morality, the only restriction to human freedom is the freedom promised by the Gospel, spiritual freedom from sin and immorality. Modern humanistic ethics seems to deny the existence or possibility of knowing or understanding absolute moral norms. However, according to revealed religion and religious tradition and right reason, there is an absolute – God’s moral law, and it is a sin not to preserve it. To the believer, real freedom is not doing what he or she wants whenever and with whomever, but it is to live a life free from sin.
Unfortunately today, religion is often understood as a real obstacle to the triumph of democratic liberalism. But it is the contrary that is true. Without the reestablishment of the cultural foundations of Europe, faith and reason: no free, just and democratic society can ever be established. Justice and the protection of fundamental rights are impossible, when truth and objective moral norms are denied.
Radical Liberalism today tries to downplay religion and limit it, to the private sphere of human life. Modernity is teaching that the heyday of Christianity, and indeed of religion, has been surpassed, left behind. Religion for these powerful European elites is a phenomenon of the past and modern humanity should move more and more away from spiritual values. As a result in European society there are a lot of cases of religious persecution, religious discrimination and deliberate desire to withdraw religious traditions from public life. In fact, people are forcibly imposing ideological attitudes that violate the traditional Christian style of life. A real discrimination against Christians is taking place in our societies.
Having said this, the reality of life particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, shows that the faith of millions of our people was and is a deliberate choice, an existential reality that is normative in their lives. Many of them, as the XXth century’s history of our lands has proven, were ready to give their lives for the faith. Their example and witness to religious values show that the religious stage of human history is far from over and that religion can inspire humanity today as it did in the past. It may be that the people of Central and Eastern Europe, having survived the darkness of the XXth century may be the hope and needed new life to the European continent. As Tertullian wrote, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Several reactions to the challenges that radical liberal ideology poses today are now clearly visible in Europe.
Radical Islamic extremists proclaim jihad against the West’s “post-Christian” civilization, and this is considered by many as a response to the moral decay and propaganda of the West.
Another response has been to adapt religion to the challenges and desires of the modern world. Many in the West have sought to accommodate this radical and diverse vision of Europe by loosening their own understanding of the Gospel. Such a path has been chosen by some of the Protestant communities introducing liberal standards in education and religious practices. But such ideas lead to the loosening and undoing of the dogmatic and moral framework of Christianity, and can lead to deep rifts and long lasting division. And ultimately this path fails to confront and answer the drifting of humanity towards the abyss.
Part of the answer may be through the promotion of a meaningful dialogue between the upholders of the models of liberal democracy and religious life. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches have broad opportunities to develop such a dialogue. The social doctrines of both Churches are widely developed to provide a dialogue with secular humanists. Many of good will, amongst secular humanists, are also seeking even without religion, to salvage European civilization. They see clearly what lies ahead; they have seen what can happen when man lives as if God did not exist and what horrors the human race is capable of, when reason and culture, faith and morals are abandoned.
9. Much of the modern world understands the need for such a dialogue, rather than the open conflict between religious and humanist world views. Traditional Christianity is not opposed to humanism, but rather, is in opposition to the liberal and atheistic versions of it. As a counterweight to atheistic humanism, the Church offers a religious humanism, based on the building up of spiritual and moral values. We have to understand that religious humanism is the only one that builds on the necessary foundation of human dignity and freedom.
The well known Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev wrote that humanism, and therefore human dignity, can be revived only out of religious depth. Human dignity ... presupposes the existence of God13. In these words lies the concept of Christian humanism, which for the sake of freedom can not discredit religious values.
10. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which share a very similar understanding and teaching on Christian morality, have already, many times, expressed their willingness to defend and to promote Christian values in an effort to rebuild morality in Europe.
In today’s era of liberal humanism there is a great need to be united in order to respond to the challenges of the modern world and to preach the Good News more effectively. If we delay, we will miss the train of life because it will depart without us, and on that train will be people influenced by liberal humanism, rejecting absolute truth and advocating moral relativism. We cannot afford to miss that train.
But we, Christians, have an obligation to the Lord: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”14. We have received His mandate to build Christian unity: “Let all be one; ... That the world may believe”15. Hence, the belief of the peoples of Europe will also depend on our unity.
11. In such a complicated moral situation that the modern world has created, we have to teach people, that society and the Church are not only two institutions that live their own autonomous life next to each other, but that they are living institutions that rely on each other and that their relationship is similar to the relationship between the body and the soul. Therefore the Church must again become the soul of our society. Without spiritual values, society withers away and the attempt to shape human affairs without God ultimately leads to the complete disregard of man.
All this leads to the conclusion that secularized Europe needs a moral revolution to receive a Christian soul. For this, it has to return to its Christian roots in order to build its future, not only on economical, political and cultural developments, but always on the actual values of the Gospel. In this perspective the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches are invited to an immediate collaboration to restore of morality in a culturally diverse Europe.
For this to happen, there has to be the defense of traditional family values, the promotion and defense of life, the provision of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, a greater attention to the moral formation of young people, the promotion and safeguarding of the dignity of every human being teaching society not to rely only on material things but to remind society of the spiritual life, helping it to introduce moral norms to business, politics, culture and media, developing charitable activity, supporting the poor, assisting migrants, comforting those with AIDS/HIV and drug addiction, promoting social justice and peace and so on.
It would be very useful if the Churches in those countries where religion has been, and still is persecuted, would share their experiences and their witness on how to preserve the faith and transmit it to new generations under persecution.
The well known American researcher at the Centre for Ethics and Social Policy in Washington, George Weigel, says that in our present situation we have hope that Europe will be able to rediscover its Christian roots and faith, because if it does not, it will die. From an ethical point of view, this crisis may lead to one more thing, which was proposed by Pope Benedict XVI: readiness of non-believers to live “as if God really existed”16.
As we seek ways to rebuild the moral order in Europe, we must all take notice of the cultural shifts, within those countries that form the European Union. In the elections held less than a month ago, we witnessed the desire of the people for change, for an end to austerity, for a more transparent and open form of governance, for economic growth and jobs, whilst at the same time those with extremist viewpoints, those with nationalist and isolationist beliefs, which also run contrary to Gospel values, won seats to the European Parliament. This change and desire for change must surely be a factor for the need to work towards re-establishing the moral order Europe certainly needs today. Our continent is crying out in hunger, in hunger for real values – Gospel values, given by God through His Son Jesus Christ, who has commissioned all of us to live and share them with the world. We Christians from East and West can make bold steps to alleviate that hunger.
May the Lord help our Churches in a time full of dangerous challenges, to find wisdom, courage and the common direction to bring back and restore the moral foundations of our European continent. May Mary Most Holy, protectress of Europe, help us and intercede for us at this grave hour.
Thank you for your attention.
- Europe, pp.14-15
- cfr. AA, 11.
- CCL, Can 1055 § 1.
- CCL, Can 1056.
- cfr. Mt 25, 40.
- cfr.Gen 1, 26.
- cfr. GS 12.
- cfr. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/homilies/1978/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19781022_inizio-pontificato_en.html
- UUS 89.
- EN 77.
- cfr. UR 1.
- cfr. http://naszglos.civitaschristiana.pl/index.php?type=artykul&rok=2008&str= 4&nr=1.
- cfr. https://maxpark.com/community/88/content/2705159.
- Mt 28, 19.
- Jn 17, 21.
- cfr. http://7dni.wordpress.com/2007/01/02/europa-umrze-bez-odrodzenia-wiary/.
Used literature and accepted abbreviations:
1. Pastoral constitution on the Church in in the modern world “Gaudium et spes” // The documents of Vatican II. London-Dublin 1966 (GS).
2. Decree on ecumenism “Unitas Redintegratio // The documents of Vatican II. London-Dublin 1966 (UR).
3. Paul VI. Apostolic Exortation “Evangelii nuntiandi” // http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi_en.html.
4. John Paul II. Apostolic Letter “Tertio Millennio adveniente”. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1994 (TMA).
5. John Paul II. Encyclical “Ut unum sint”. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1995 (UUS).
6. Code of Canon Law. Latin-English edition. Washington DC 1955 (CCL).
7. http://naszglos.civitaschristiana.pl/index.php?type=artykul&rok =2008&str= 4&nr=1.
8. Joseph Ratzinger, Europe, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2005 (Europe).