(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the participants of a conference, sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), on the theme of “(Re)Thinking Europe — A Christian Contribution to the Future of the European Project.”
“It is significant,” the Pope said, “that this meeting was intended above all as a dialogue, pursued in a spirit of openness and freedom, for the sake of mutual enrichment.” Speaking of a “Christian contribution” to the future of the continent, he said, means “to consider our task, as Christians today, in these lands which have been so richly shaped by the faith down the centuries.”
Beginning with the figure of St Benedict, the patron of Europe, the Holy Father focused especially on two main contributions that Christians have made to Europe, and can make for the future. The first, “and perhaps the greatest” contribution Christians can make to Europe is “to remind her that she is not a mass of statistics or institutions, but is made up of people.” The second contribution is related to the first: “To acknowledge that others are persons means to value what unites us to them. To be a person connects us with others; it makes us a community.” The second contribution, then, is “to help recover the sense of belonging to a community.”
It is within the family, “the primordial community,” that we are first able to come to an understanding of unity in diversity. The family, the Pope said, “is the harmonious union of the differences between man and woman, which becomes stronger and more authentic to the extent that it is fruitful, capable of opening itself to life and to others.” The wider civic community is similar, in that it is able to flourish when it is open to the “differences and gifts” of every person within the community.
“Person and community are thus the foundations of the Europe that we, as Christians, want and can contribute to building,” the Pope said. And “the bricks of this structure are dialogue, inclusion, solidarity, development and peace.”
Pope Francis concluded his address with a quote from the Letter to Diognetus, a writing from the earliest ages of Christianity, which says, “what the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world.” “In our day,” the Pope said, “Christians are called to revitalize Europe and to revive its conscience, not by occupying spaces, but by generating processes capable of awakening new energies in society.” Once again calling to mind St Benedict, Pope Francis said, “He was not concerned to occupy spaces in a wayward and confused world. Sustained by faith, Benedict looked ahead, and from a tiny cave in Subiaco he gave birth to an exciting and irresistible movement that changed the face of Europe.”
The Pope prayed, “May Saint Benedict, ‘messenger of peace, promoter of union, master of civilization’ make clear to us, the Christians of our own time, how a joyful hope, flowing from faith, is able to change the world.”
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