“If you are cut off from your roots, you will come adrift,”
In a joint statement Catholic and Orthodox leaders called Europe to embrace its Christian roots in this difficult time of “widespread concern for (the) future” of Europe.
“We believe that Europe needs more than ever the breath of faith in Christ and the hope that it provides,” they wrote. “If you are cut off from your roots, you will come adrift.”
“…our societies are turning to their spiritual resources, to draw out means of responding to the situation that Europe is experiencing, and to trace the path ahead for a future full of hope and greater confidence,” the leaders said.
During the 5th European Catholic-Orthodox Forum, 12 delegates of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) met in Paris with 12 representatives of the Orthodox Churches in Europe last month to discuss the theme, “Europe in fear of the threat from fundamentalist terrorism, and the value of human person and religious freedom.’’
While governments guarantee the “fundamental rights of the human person,” many forces are currently at work that seek to marginalize or eliminate religion from the public square, the leaders said.
“We believe that Europe needs more than ever the breath of faith in Christ and the hope that it provides,” they said. “Christianity is a marker of identity that does not deny others their human rights, but seeks to cooperate with all for the realization of the common good.”
They focused in particular on the effects that terrorism and extreme secularization have on young people. Often, they noted, radicalized terrorists are distraught young people who see violence as an outlet, and as a way to exact revenge on non-believers and “infidels” whom they’ve been taught to see as “other.”
“Youth, however, is the time of hope and of building the future. We invite all young people to commit themselves to building a fraternal world that excludes no one,” they said.
“We do not hesitate to recall that our Churches themselves have undertaken just such a work to gain a deeper understanding of the word of God in the Scriptures not according to ‘the letter that kills’ but according to ‘the Spirit that gives life’ (2 Corinthians 3:6).”
They also noted the effect that some concepts of secularism are having on the young people of Europe, which have led “entire generations to a form of religious illiteracy which deprives citizens of the basic knowledge that is necessary for them to understand their own cultural heritage, as well as the cultural heritage of other traditions that are inspired by religion.”
Ignoring the religious heritage of Europe often leads, even if unintentionally, to discrimination and persecution within societies that claim to be open, they said.
“Cultural relativism, devoid of truth or moral good, cannot be established as dogma, because this actually leads to division between human beings.”
Addressing the large waves of migrants that Europe has experienced in the past few years, the leaders described welcoming the stranger as a Christian duty, and urged them to remember Abraham, whom Christians, Jews and Muslims have in common as a father in faith.
They added that migrants in turn have a duty to peacefully integrate into their host countries, which must be united by a foundation that respects the religious and human rights of all people.
“Pluralistic societies are a real challenge for contemporary mankind, especially in Europe. Our long Christian tradition has taught us that the Gospel of Jesus has been able – and is still able – to bring men and women of every origin together in one single people of faith,” they said.
Ultimately, they said, in order for peace to prevail in Europe, the continent must be willing to engage in a dialogue with people of different faiths, and to return to its Christian roots, which provided Europe with “its universalist vision, its notion of the dignity of the human person and its moral principles.
“If you are cut off from your roots, you will come adrift,” they said. “The emptiness within especially exposes the youngest people to the worst temptations. We firmly repeat that the Christian faith reconciles all the personal and social dimensions that are found in the human person.”