Recalling Europe to Its Christian Roots

Cardinal Parolin.

Cardinal Parolin.

The Cardinal Secretary of State, during a trip to Montecassino in October, urged Europe to speak with one voice on issues ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine.

The European Union could be significant and helpful in solving crises around the world, but its common effort should lie in its Christian roots which are somewhat forgotten, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, on October 24 during a visit to the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino. The event coincided with the appointment of a new abbot for the community, and its reorganization, and commemorated the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s visit to the first community of the Order of St. Benedict.

When he visited Montecassino in 1964, Blessed Paul VI read his apostolic let­ter Pacis nuntius, proclaiming St. Benedict a patron of Europe and acknowledging the monk’s work in building a common European identity.

Cardinal Parolin lamented that 50 years later, it seems “there is no more wish for ‘Europe’ as there was 50 years ago.”

He underscored that the European Union could be one of the most important actors in the world arena, but added that it needs to “speak with one voice,” and look back to its common roots.

“I believe that Europe is suffering the common loss of historical memory, which forbids us to remember where we hail from and what are the deep roots of this Europe,” he said.

In his analysis of the Middle East situation and plight of Christians there given during the October 20 consistory, Cardinal Parolin also blamed the international community — including the European Union — for having remained silent as the situation worsened. “Europe should find one voice… we be­lieve that the problems of the Middle East should be solved by the Middle Eastern countries, but we also believe that Europe can help those countries in their purpose, since we know that a big part of this conflict comes from outside the Middle East,” he said.

And “even more” Europe should contribute to “solving the Ukraine situation, trying to put together the interests of everyone,” Cardinal Parolin said.

The cardinal suggested that Europe’s inability to solve such problems as those in Ukraine and the Middle East stem from its tendency to remove its Christian roots from the public square.

According to Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Shkodre-Pult, a bishop in Albania who is deputy president of the Council for European Bishops’ Conferences, Pope Francis addressed the issue in an off-the-cuff —and still unpublished — speech delivered October 3 to the European bishops gathered in Rome for their plenary session. “The Pope said: ‘I don’t understand why its Christian roots have not been acknowledged in the European Constitution,’” Bishop Massafra shared with CNA shortly after the address.

Cardinal Parolin said, “The issue of Christian roots is not in the public agenda since the European Constitution is no longer under discussion,” but “we are always aware that Europe should build itself on its deep roots, though we are not giving so many public interventions on this issue.”

“That Christian roots be not forgotten is a warranty for a healthy laity in Europe. Christian roots are not just a historical memory of the past; they are still very current,” explained the Secretary of State.

Cardinal Parolin asked: “Where do human rights have their foundation? Where does solidarity have its foundation? These topics are of typically Christian inspiration, even if they have continued to evolve.”

In his October 20 address to the consistory, Cardinal Parolin also praised Iran’s efforts, and he stressed that Vatican-Iranian relations will continue to be fostered, despite continued concerns over the country’s respect for human rights.

“The more we open to reality, the more we open to the world, the more we build relations of community — I might say, in more lay terms, of cooperation — the more human rights will be developed in the nations,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Following Pope Francis’ push for a culture of encounter, the Secretary of State underscored that “dialogue must never end.”

“Dialogue is the tool used by the strongest,” he said. “Only one who has patience and internal strength is able to dialogue. There are no alternatives to dialogue, given that the only alternative is war, destruction, mutual destruction. Dialogue is indispensable.”

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