Bells of Europe: Reasons for the Holy Father's Hope for a New Awakening of Christianity in Europe
Christ, more welcoming and united, not merely safeguarding their cultural and spiritual heritage but also committed to finding new ways to face the great challenges that characterise the post-modern and multicultural age?
Answer - This is an important question. It is clear that Europe has great weight in today's world, in terms of economic, cultural and intellectual importance; as a consequence of this it also has great responsibility. But Europe, as you said, still has to find its true identity in order to be able to speak and act in keeping with her responsibility. In my opinion, the problem today does not consist in national differences which, thank God, are differences not divisions. In their cultural, human and temperamental differences, nations are a rich asset which together give rise to a great symphony of cultures. Basically, they are a shared culture.
The problem Europe has in finding its own identity consists, I believe, in the fact that in Europe today we see two souls: one is abstract anti-historical reason, which seeks to dominate all else because it considers itself above all cultures; it is like a reason which has finally discovered itself and intends to liberate itself from all traditions and cultural values in favour of an abstract rationality. Strasburg's first verdict on the crucifix was an example of such abstract reason which seeks emancipation from all traditions, even from history itself. Yet we cannot live like that and, moreover, even "pure reason" is conditioned by a certain historical context, and only in that context can it exist.
We could call Europe's other soul the Christian one. It is a soul open to all that is reasonable, a soul which itself created the audaciousness of reason and the freedom of critical reasoning, but which remains anchored to the roots from which this Europe was born, the roots which created the continent's fundamental values and great institutions, in the vision of the Christian faith. As you said, this soul has to find a shared expression in ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches.
It must then encounter this abstract reason; in other words, it must accept and maintain the freedom of reason to criticise everything it can do and has done, but to practise this and give it concrete form on the foundations and in the context of the great values that Christianity has given us. Only by blending these elements can Europe have weight in the intercultural dialogue of mankind today and tomorrow.
Only when reason has a historical and moral identity can it speak to others, search for an "interculturality" in which everyone can enter and find a fundamental unity in the values that open the way to the future, to a new humanism. This must be our aim. For us this humanism arises directly from the view of man created in the image and likeness of God.
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