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Cardinal Péter Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest in Hungary, Relator General of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, but today in the first place president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) had some choice words to say in order to describe the need for Christ in Europe. The full text of his greeting to Pope Francis is available here.
“Holy Father, Europe needs Christ! Today when a lot is said about the economic crisis, we know that even before Europe was suffering a crisis of humanity and the lack of hope and a perspective on life, which only God can give.
Our very aged society, which focuses more on individualism than on the family, which looks to the world just with the eyes of the economy, reducing everything to profit and usefulness, which has difficulty in welcoming nascent life, the elderly or the disabled, this our European society studded with so many existential margins and disorientated in the search for what is good, true and beautiful, needs Jesus. Our compatriots, even when they are not aware of this, need to find the living and vibrant Jesus Christ in the life of the Church, His Body and His Family.
How many times is the Church really the only reality which remains present and close to the poor, to the elderly, to the pregnant and abandoned mothers, to the young people who are perhaps seeking, but without great hope, meaning for their lives? And we want to be more present! But if faith is lacking, on what will our presence be based? (Cfr. Matt 5:13-14)”
In the run-up to the Synod, the presidents of the European bishops’ conferences are in Rome for their plenary meeting, which has “the family and the future of Europe” as its theme. Most conference presidents were present, although some had sent delegates. For some reason Cardinal Wim Eijk did not attend, nor was a delegate of his listed among the participants. Cardinal Eijk will, however, be in Rome for the Synod. But a permanent Dutch presence in the CCEE is assured by its Vice Secretary General, Father Michel Remery, a priest of the Diocese of Rotterdam.
In order to mark the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Method in Great Moravia (encompassing the modern Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and parts of Germany, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Ukraine), Slovakia has decided to mint a special memorial 2 Euro coin depicting the two ‘Apostles to the Slavs’ in 2013. A lofty memorial of an event which lay at the basis of Slavic culture in central Europe and beyond.
Saints Cyril and Method came to bring the Christian faith to people who had not yet heard it. Their faith dictated who they were and what they did and said. To ignore that part of the persons is negligent and a falsification of history.
But that is precisely what the European Commission and several member states of the European Union (of which Slovakia is a member) now wants. The crosses on the saints’ clothing and the aureolas indicating their sainthood have been identified as possibly insulting or disturbing some citizens of the Union. By the grace of policy makers, only the double Byzantine cross, which also serves as Slovakia’s national symbol, was allowed to remain.
The Slovakian bishops’ conference has rightly stated that this is a lack of respect for Europe’s Christian traditions. A spokesperson wondered if Europe is a state of rights or a totalitarian system dictating which attributes are tolerated.
This is only one example in a series of Europe curtailing the display of identity and the free exercise of religion. The reasons given, that some unknown person may take offense at the symbols shown, are unreasonable in the extreme. I may say that a lack of Christian symbols offends me. Will the EU take that into account? Will they remove other symbols, statements, images, actions or whatever if they perhaps offend me? The banner of tolerance is used as a tool of intolerance.
This unreasonable fear of any display of religion, even in imagery that has a solid basis in history, is nothing but the complete denial of Europe’s own identity and history. Sts. Method and Cyril were Christians and we remember them for bringing the Christian faith to parts of Europe , so why on earth should we not remember them for who they were? Christian missionaries, not empty vessels to be filled with the identity that modern Europe dictates.
As part of the proceedings of the second session of the Synod of Bishops, yesterday, representatives of the five continents (although, for the sake of simplicity, the Americas were suddenly a single continent…) offered a report on the background of the new evangelisation in their respective parts of the world. Representing Europe was Péter Cardinal Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and President of the CCEE, the Council of European Episcopal Conferences.
Cardinal Erdö divides his report in eleven bullet points. Points 1 to 3 discuss the need for evangelisation in the face of the loss of knowledge of the Christian faith and conscious efforts to distort and attack that faith. In points 4 and 5 discuss the effect that this has on the areas of human rights and politics, especially people’s attitude towards these, in Europe. Points 6 to 8, then, discuss signs of hope and opportunity. Points 9 to 11, finally, speak of the progress made in ecumenism. Combined, these points paint a picture of the reality in which the new evangelisation must somehow bear fruit.
While we may recognise much from what Cardinal Erdö says in what we see and read in the news, as a Catholic “on the ground” in Europe, I must admit that I don’t recognise everything in this report. Maybe that is due to the fact that the report discusses general trends in a large area, and the reality in the small area of a parish may be quite different. But, on the other hand, it is in that parish that the new evangelisation must take root.
Point two, about religious education, is as far as I am concerned spot on. With some experience in education, I can say that the standards of RE in secondary schools in the Netherlands are exceedingly low. Few are the schools which undertake any serious Catholic religious education, and for most students, it is indeed “an education in syncretism or indifference”. If everything is equal, everything is equally ineffective and unimportant.
“The fact [...] that each Synodal assembly begins with prayer is no mere formality. Rather, it is evidence of our awareness that the initiative is always God’s. We may implore it, but the Church can only cooperate with God.”
United in prayer with 256 of the Synod fathers, Pope Benedict XVI launched the first working day of the Synod of Bishops this morning. In a seemingly unscripted address. the Holy Father spoke about the important fact of God’s reality and about charity being the visible form of the confession of our faith.
Today’s first Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin has a summary of the pope’s words, as well as full texts of the other main addresses: the greeting by President-Delegate Cardinal John Tong Hon; the report by the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishop, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic; and the Relatio ante disceptationem by the Relator General, Cardinal Donald Wuerl (pictured).
In the afternoon, the fathers met once more for the second general congregation. Five prelates gave reports on the need for new evangelisation in their respective continents: Cardinal Péter Erdö for Europe, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo for Africa, Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes for the Americas, Cardinal Oswald Gracias for Asia and Archbishop John Atcherley Dew for Oceania. Cardinal Erdö’s words especially had a very serious undertone, which may be summarised in his first point: “Europe must be evangelized. It needs it.”
Following these reports, which outlined a background to the new evangelisation, why it is needed and how it is and will be implemented in the various parts of the world, three prelates presented further interventions. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón and Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko offered some extra points for discussion and reflection.
The texts of the Synod are steadily coming out, and as this blogger hasn’t got the time or space to discuss them all, I can only suggest you read (some of) them yourself. For today, I would say that Cardinal Wuerl’s words are most significant.
Via an official communique the press service of the Dutch bishops’ conference today published the name of the new Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands. He is the highly experienced Archbishop André Pierre Louis Dupuy.
Like his predecessor, Archbishop François Bacqué, whose resignation was accepted today, Archbishop Dupuy also hails from France. For the past six years, he represented the Holy See at various European Communities and since 2006 also in Monaco, where he was the first Nuncio. Msgr. Dupuy is almost 72 (reaching that age next February), so there is no change that he will match the long service of his predecessor. But that does not mean that he will be a footnote. As I mentioned above, the new Nuncio is highly experienced. As a priest, he worked in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See in Venezuela, Tanzania, the Netherlands (he’s no total stranger here then), Lebanon, Iran, Ireland en at the United Nations. In 1993, Msgr. Dupuy was consecrated to bishop and assigned as Apostolic Nuncio to Togo, Benin and Ghana. In 2000, he was sent to Venezuela, where he had repeated clashes with that country’s President Hugo Chavez. In 2005, then, he was assigned as the highest diplomatic representatives to a number of European Communities, with his offices in Uccle, Brussels. A year later, he became the same in Monaco. All in all, Archbishop Dupuy brings 37 years of diplomatic experience to The Hague’s Carnegielaan.
As bishop, Archbishop Dupuy holds the titular see of Selsey, located on England’s south coast. He is a doctor in history and canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Considered a confidant of Blessed John Paul II, Archbishop Dupuy wrote a book about the development of diplomacy under this pope, titled Giovanni Paolo II e le sfide della diplomazia pontificia, published in 2004.
As canon lawyer, historian and experienced diplomat, Archbishop Dupuy can do good work here with the bishops and the entire Church in this country. Closely tied to Rome and with an eye on the international community, he will be a good fit for the Dutch situation and hopefully bring fruitful solutions to some of the problems we are facing here.
The exact details of when Archbishop Dupuy will start his work here are as yet unknown. On Tuesday, retiring Nuncio Bacqué was received by Her Majesty the Queen and decorated as Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau. Cardinals Simonis and Willebrands hold or have held the same rank in that order.
For now, a heartfelt welcome to the new Apostolic Nuncio. May his years here, while understandably short, bear much good fruit.
Photo credit:Council of the European Union [cropped]
Yesterday’s post on the assembly of archbishops under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation seems to lead to far more concrete steps than the piece in the Vatican Insider led us to believe.
Archbishop Fisichella himself explains as much in a piece in l’Osservatore Romano.
Benedict XVI, speaking to the first plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, said that it was of decisive importance to go beyond the fragmentation of society and offer concrete answers to the great challenges of today. To fill this need, a “metropolitan mission” has been put into action. The goal is simple: to give a sign of unity among the diverse dioceses present in the largest European cities that have been particularly affected by secularization.
At the moment, the initiative is limited to some of the larger European dioceses in order more concretely test its effectiveness. The project, however, should eventually extend beyond the borders of the old continent, albeit with modalities which respect the different cultural and ecclesial traditions.
Regarding concrete action, the following passages are most significant:
[T]he “metropolitan mission” intends to be a first step. It will be achieved through common and contemporaneous initiatives, in ordinary pastoral work with special attention to formation, and through public activities offered to the city during Lent 2012.
The cathedral will be the place of these activities. Firstly, through a continual reading of the Gospels, to place the Word of God at the center. Then, three catechisms of the bishop dedicated to young people, to families and to catechumens on the themes of faith; then, a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation to draw attention to confession and for its high anthropological value. An activity of charity will complete the experience to demonstrate that faith that is professed and prayed is also witnessed. Finally, a sign of spirituality of a cultural character will be given by the reading of various significant texts, such as excerpts from the Confessions of St. Augustine.
As I concluded in yesterday’s post, this will be an ideal opportunity to learn from the past experiences of individual dioceses. Msgr. Fisichella concludes his article editorial as follows:
Thanks to this initiative, the dioceses work together on a common project, strengthened by their individual experiences of the past, they sustain each other in the common difficulties they encounter. They look to the future with the hope of unity and with the intention of recuperating a sense of involvement and responsibility, favoring the creative and credible contribution of Christians.
Read the full text via the link provided above.