Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Benedict XVI: without Christian values, Europe will collapse

Background briefing: this the Pope's message in his new document, 'That Europe may again be "leaven for the world“'

Full text follows.

Esteemed cardinals,
venerated brothers in the episcopacy,
honorable parliamentarians,
dear ladies and gentlemen!

I am particularly happy to receive so many of you in this audience, which is
taking place on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the
Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957. This event marked an important step for
Europe, which had emerged exhausted from the second world war and wanted to
build a future of peace and of greater economic and social well-being, without
dissolving or denying the different national identities. I greet Adrianus
Herman van Luyn, bishop of Rotterdam, president of the Commission for the
Episcopates of the European Community, and I thank him for the gracious words
that he has addressed to me. I greet the other prelates, the distinguished
personalities, and those taking part in the conference sponsored in these days
by COMECE to reflect upon Europe.

Since March of fifty years ago, this Continent has taken a long journey that has
led to the reconciliation of the two “lungs” – the East and the West – bound by
a common history, but arbitrarily separated by a curtain of injustice. Economic
integration has stimulated these political developments and has fostered the
search, still underway with great effort, for an appropriate institutional
structure for a European Union that, by this point, numbers 27 countries and
aspires to become a global actor in the world.

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that there is a need to
establish a healthy balance between the economic and social dimensions, through
policies capable of producing wealth and increasing competition without
overlooking the legitimate expectations of the poor and marginalized.

Under the aspect of demography, one must unfortunately note that Europe seems to
be traveling along a road that could lead to its disappearance from history.

Apart from putting economic growth at risk, this can also cause enormous
difficulties for social cohesion, and above all it can foster a dangerous
individualism heedless of future consequences. One can almost think that the
European Continent is, in fact, losing trust in its own future.

Furthermore, concerning the examples of respect for the environment or of
orderly access to resources and energy investments, solidarity is incentivized
with great effort, not only on an international scale but also on a strictly
national one. It is seen that the very process of European unification is not
shared by all, because of the widespread impression that various “chapters” of
the European project have been “written” without adequately keeping in mind the
expectations of the citizens.

It clearly emerges from all this that one cannot think of building an authentic
“common European home” while overlooking the very identity of the peoples of
our Continent.

This is, in fact, an historical, cultural, and moral identity before being
geographical, economic, or political; an identity constituted by a collection
of universal values that Christianity has contributed to forging, thereby
acquiring a role that is not only historical, but also foundational in relation
to Europe.

These values, which constitute the soul of the Continent, must remain in the
Europe of the third millennium as a “ferment” of civilization. In fact, if
these were to be diminished, how could the “old” Continent continue to carry
our the function of being “leaven” for the entire world? If, on the occasion of
the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the governments of the Union wish
to “get closer” to their citizens, how could they exclude an element of
European identity as essential as Christianity is, and with which the vast
majority of them still identify themselves? Is it not a cause for surprise that
today’s Europe, while striving to position itself as a community of values,
seems more often to contest the idea that there are universal and absolute
values? Does not this remarkable form of “apostasy” from itself, even before
[apostasy] from God, perhaps induce it to doubt its very identity?

This ends in the spread of the conviction that the “weighing of benefits” is the
only method of moral discernment, and that the common good is synonymous with
compromise. In reality, if compromise can constitute a legitimate balancing of
different particular interests, it becomes a shared ill whenever it involves
agreements that are harmful to the nature of man.

A community that constructs itself without respect for the authentic dignity of
the human person, forgetting that every person is created in the image of God,
ends up by not being good for anyone.

This is why it appears increasingly more indispensable that Europe should guard
itself against that pragmatic attitude, widespread today, which systematically
justifies compromise on essential human values, as if the acceptance of a
presumably lesser evil were inevitable. Such pragmatism, which is presented as
balanced and realistic, is not that way deep down, precisely because it denies
the dimension of values and ideas that is inherent in human nature.

When, later, secularist and relativist tendencies and currents are woven into
this sort of pragmatism, Christians are in the end denied the right to
intervene as Christians in public debate, or at the very least their
contribution is disqualified with the accusation that they want to safeguard
unjustified privileges.

In the present historical moment and in the face of the many challenges that
mark it, the European Union, in order to be a valid guarantor of the order of
law and an effective promoter of universal values, cannot help but acknowledge
clearly the certain existence of a stable and permanent human nature, the
source of rights common to all individuals, including those who deny them. In
this context, the right to conscientious objection must be safeguarded whenever
fundamental human rights may be violated.

Dear friends, I know how difficult it is for Christians to make a strenuous
defense of this truth of man. But do not grow weary, and do not be discouraged!
You know that it is your task to contribute to building up, with the help of
God, a new Europe - one realistic but not cynical, rich in ideals and free from
naïve illusions, inspired by the perennial and life-giving truth of the Gospel.

So then, be present in an active way in the public debate on the European level,
aware that this is now an integral part of the national debate, and accompany
this effort with effective cultural action. Do not bow to the logic of power as
an end in itself! May you draw constant motivation and support from the
admonition of Christ: if salt loses its flavor, it is good for nothing but to
be thrown out and trampled underfoot (cf. Mt. 5:13). May the Lord bring
fruitfulness to all of your efforts, and help you to recognize and value the
positive elements present in today’s civilization, while still denouncing
courageously everything that is contrary to the dignity of man.

I am certain that God will not fail to bless the generous effort of those who,
in a spirit of service, work to build a common European home in which every
cultural, social, and political contribution is ordered toward the common good.
I express my support to you, who are already involved in various ways in this
important human and evangelical undertaking, and I address to you my most
lively encouragement. Above all, I assure you that I will remember you in
prayer, and, invoking the maternal protection of Mary, mother of the incarnate
Word, I wholeheartedly impart to you and to your families and communities my
affectionate blessing.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen