Skip to main content


What Europe Needs - Bishops Discuss the Future of Christianity in the Continent

10/11/2004 - 5:30 AM PST

Advertisment

LEEDS, England, OCT. 11, 2004 (Zenit) - The future of the Catholic Church in Europe was debated at a meeting held last week in England. From Thursday to Sunday the presidents of the bishops' conferences in Europe gathered in Leeds.

"The cultural and religious changes in Europe prompt us to formulate a pastoral response. As never before the future of Europe seems charged with opportunities," stated Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, in his address. He stressed the key was "fidelity to Christ and to his Gospel."

In his opening address Bishop Amédée Grab, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), spoke about the Catholic identity in Europe. He observed that for many people today the Catholic Church is "just one of many spiritual choices or 'possibilities,' in a world where the 'right to choose' is seen as vitally important." Moreover, many Europeans have only a superficial knowledge of the Church, and even where Catholic traditions are still observed, their roots have been forgotten.

Regarding relations between the Church and society, Bishop Grab observed that democracy is now prevalent throughout Europe. In theory this should guarantee everyone the same rights. "But we often hear influential people say how they would like to prevent the Catholic Church playing a part in political and democratic life."

"Tolerance is what is preached, but some find it hard to tolerate the Church speaking publicly," the 74-year-old Swiss prelate added. "The tendency to confine religion to the private sphere is as much part of life in the West of Europe as it is in the East. It is a product as much of the communist vision as of a certain kind of liberalism."

Citing John Paul II, Bishop Grab recommended that the Church develop pastoral initiatives that both take contemporary culture into consideration, and are centered in Christ. "If we look to Christ crucified, we have a different key for interpreting reality, where success has hardly anything to do with the concepts of success normally used in Europe today," he said.

The meeting's host was Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. The 72-year-old archbishop of Westminster agreed that support for the Church in society is weak. "But the search for faith is strong," he added. He noted that the Church's action in helping the poor and disadvantaged continues to be very strong.

Sound teaching

"We come together at a crucial time in the pilgrim journey of the Catholic Church," stated Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor in his homily during a Mass celebrated last Sunday at St. Anne's Cathedral, Leeds.

At the start of the third millennium, "we bishops have the task of preaching and teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of our time," he said. This, he explained, involves two main challenges.

"The first is this. St. Paul says in today's reading, 'Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been entrusted to look after something precious. Guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.'"

Many in Europe, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor explained, are looking for values "that will give meaning to their lives and purpose to their activities." Filling this void with God is a responsibility for bishops and all those who work with them, both priests and lay people. This is not a burden, but a privilege, he added.

The cardinal recommended avoiding two extremes: a rigidity that prevents others from hearing the message to be preached; and an excessive conformity to the ways and values of the world that distorts the truth of the Gospel.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor once more cited St. Paul in outlining the second challenge. "St. Paul says in his letter to Timothy, 'I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God's gift was not a spirit of timidity but the spirit of power, and love, and self-control.'"

"Do not think, my dear people, that it is easy to be a Christian, a Catholic, in today's society, in the latter-day culture of Europe, to which we all belong," the cardinal said. An example of how to strengthen the faith in Europe can be found in St. Francis of Assisi, he added.

The following day was the feast of the patron of Europe, and Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor observed: "I think St. Francis teaches us that there is no way we will be missionaries in Europe without striving to be holy, without striving to imitate Christ."

Anglican input

The meeting also addressed a variety of other themes, among them ecumenism. The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was present and emphasized the importance of "spiritual ...

1 | 2  Next Page

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment


Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 26:1-9
At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 69:6, 8-10, 14
Those who hope in you must not be made fools of, Yahweh ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:54-58
and, coming to his home town, he taught the people in their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

August 1 Saint of the Day

St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
August 1: Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the ... Read More