While never a Catholic myself, having been superficially raised as an Episcipalean before finding myself in a state of radical protestantism, I am intrigued to learn that notwithstanding his recent controversies with Islam that Pope Benedict XVI continues his attempt to address the root problems of Europe today in terms of a lack of faith in its own heritage and faith. The pope has issued a powerful plea for the European Union to recognise its Christian identity. He said the denial of Europe’s Christian roots was “a form of apostasy” and a betrayal of the continent’s own nature.
In a veiled reference to the Islamic demographic surge in Europe, the Pontiff also declared that a falling birth rate was leading Europe towards “its twilight in history” stating: “One might even think that the European continent is losing confidence in its future.” These comments came days before Europe’s leaders agreed to revive talks on the controversial European constitution, a document that is likely to have no reference to Christianity at a conference in Rome organised to discuss the future of the EU.
The Pontiff told bishops, lay Catholics, members of religious orders and European heads of state that it was “unthinkable” the EU could build a “common European house” while ignoring Europe’s identity. “It is a historical, cultural and moral identity even before it is a geographic, economic or political reality. It is an identity built on a set of universal values which Christianity played a role in moulding,” he said, "arguing that if these values were lost Europe would no longer act as a positive force for change in the rest of the world.
Such values constitute Europe’s “soul”, he said, and if they failed, “how could the ‘old’ continent play the role of ‘yeast’ for the whole world?”
In this speech Benedict XVI drew an alarming picture of a Europe that had abandoned essential values and succumbed to a dangerous pragmatism. He also argued that the drift towards secularism and relativism had meant that Christians were “denied the right to intervene in public debates” and urged Europe to beware of the kind of pragmatism “that systematically justifies compromising on essential human values as if accepting an allegedly lesser evil were inevitable”.