Pope expresses hope that Catholic, Orthodox re-evangelize Europe
May 07, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI expressed hope that a landmark meeting between Catholic and Russian Orthodox representatives would result in the two churches working together to re-evangelize Europe.
VATICAN CITY (CNS, May-3-2006) -- In a message written by the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the pope sent his greetings to participants in a meeting organized by the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate.
The Vatican released a copy of the message to journalists May 3.
The May 3-5 meeting in Vienna, Austria, was titled, "Give a Soul to Europe: The Mission and Responsibility of the Churches."
Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the pontifical councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue, and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow generated the idea for the event, marking the first time a Vatican office and the Moscow Patriarchate jointly organized a meeting on culture in Europe.
The Vienna Archdiocese's Pro Oriente Foundation helped organize the gathering, which brought together dozens of Catholic and Russian Orthodox officials and experts. The Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation provided funding for the three-day, closed-door discussions.
The meeting outlined Christianity's challenges, including the threats of secularism, religious indifference and sects.
Participants were to look for ways the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches could work together to help Europe better cherish its Christian heritage and prompt Christians to infuse European policies and culture with ethical and moral values.
The papal message said that only by preserving and promoting Europe's Christian values, while respecting "the different spiritual traditions which enrich" Europe, could the continent turn a new page in history and experience wholesome development.
Cardinal Sodano wrote that the pope hoped this "important symposium" would offer participants useful ideas on how to work together for "a courageous and renewed evangelization in Europe" so that Europeans could rediscover in Christ "their common vocation to promote peace and authentic global progress."
In his remarks to participants May 3, Cardinal Poupard said that during his close collaboration with Patriarch Alexy over the years he discovered that the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches share very similar ideas concerning the root causes of the religious and moral crises that Europe faces.
While the two churches wish to "become aware of our legitimate differences in approach" and prospects for working together to evangelize Europe, he said in his text there was no doubt that the Gospel was the solution in bringing about "a true humanism" in Europe.
"It is of the greatest importance that our churches unite their voices in the public arena," so that civil laws conform more closely to moral law, wrote Cardinal Poupard. Catholic News Service in Rome obtained a copy of his text.
Excising ethics out of daily life has resulted in public policies that threaten marriage and the family, science that violates human dignity, and a mass media that can be hateful toward religion, Cardinal Poupard said.
Eastern and Western Europe are slowly reuniting as members of the European Union, but if Europe is to be truly united, "we are convinced this unity is by nature cultural and, in essence, spiritual," he said.
To effectively infuse European politics, scientific and economic advancements with Christian values and ethics, the two churches must work together, "each one according to our grace" and the richness of each one's ancient traditions, he said.