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Msgr. Prof. Tomáš Halík: A speech to the Presidency of the EPP Group, Karlovy Vary, 6.5.2010
|[ 7. června 2010 | Autor: Msgr. Prof. Tomáš Halík: ]|
Dear Mr Chairman, dear Prime Minister, Your Excellence, ladies and gentlemen, dear guests,
I am honoured to meet you in this famous spa city endowed with rich cultural history.
I welcome you as representatives of an important political family that continues directly in the work of the founding fathers of modern united Europe. The answer of these great Christian politicians on the horrors of war, aroused by the poison of nationalism and on the subsequent danger of communist totalitarianism was a strong YES to Europe. Europe free, democratic, Europe united not from the will of dictators but on the base of common cultural and moral values. Their own, strong YES FOR EUROPE have said also nations, which have gained freedom and independence twenty years ago. “Back to Europe” was one of the buzz-words of the Czech “velvet revolution.” The recent accession of the Central and Eastern European states to the European Union was a significant step on the journey of realisation of the grand dream of many generations. However, Project Europe is still an unfinished task.
The adoption of the Lisbon Treaty in spite of defiance of the enemies of the European integration was another important move and necessary condition for the European Union to be an effective body on the international field. The real and chief national interest of the European nations is a strong, deeply integrated Europe. The opponents of the European integration scare our peoples that they will dissolve like a sugar-cube in the cup called Europe. It is us, Christians, who are tasked to be “the salt of the earth”, who should be the warrants for the national communities to be salt rather than sugar. That is why a credible presence of Christians in the public life of Europe is needed. Don't be afraid of the melting. There is no need for a lot of salt, but its total absence – or lack of salty taste, of its identity – makes the dish unpalatable, disgusting.
The active Christians are currently a minority in the European society. However, the Pope Benedict has asked the Christians of Europe to be a creative minority, not a self-excluded ghetto.
The nostalgia and longing for “Christianitas”, the medieval Christian Europe as imagined by the romanticists is an illusion and a loss of time and energy. We cannot turn back the clock of history. It is meaningless to await the return of the medieval age, especially if it existed only in heads and ideologies of romanticist opponents of modernity.
The mode of presence of Christians and Christianity in the European society has changed many times in the past – and it keeps changing even today. The changes of historical and cultural context cannot be ignored. A tendency to create peculiar, enclosed catholic subculture existing in parallel with others without any interest to communicate with them was dominant in the European Catholicism between the Ist and IInd Vatican Council – as a reaction to the French revolution, European revolutions of 1848, secularisation and advance of liberalism and socialism. This catholic world wanted to defend itself against all influences of the external world. It is obvious that this mentality gave birth to the catholic political parties, catholic organisations from the unions to sport organisations – “Bundeskatholizismus”. A motto of Pius XI. was: party against party, unions against unions, press against press.
The Catholicism in the USA has experienced a completely different practice. The enlightenment in the Anglo-Saxon world has never stood against religion and churches. The American Catholicism learned to live in an open, culturally and religiously plural democratic society. It was this American experience – especially through American Jesuits and French philosopher Jacques Maritain – that helped the IInd Vatican Council to drastically change strategy of the Church towards the modern world: defence was replaced by dialogue and solidarity. The first sentence of Gaudium et spes Constitution “The joys and the hopes, the grieves and the anxieties of the men of this age (…) these are the joys and hopes, the grieves and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” reminds me of the marital vows: the Church has promised to the contemporary man its love, respect and fidelity.
The Catholicism of the old kind, as a united block and a societal and cultural form began to founder in parts of Europe: the Netherlands, Spain, Germany between 1968-78, later on in Austria, in the recent days in Ireland, but also out of Europe – for example in Quebec.
I returned from Poland few days ago. Many Polish bishops and theologians realise that if the direction paved by Father Rydzik and his Radio Maria would prevail in the Polish Catholicism, the Church would very fast loose young generation and intellectual elites.
The Church is looking for a new mode of presence in the pluralistic postmodern society of the West. The Pope Benedict says: "the Church must be a creative minority". The famous dialogue of cardinal Ratzinger and philosopher Habermas leads to a mutual conclusion that Christianity and Secular humanism need each other, to mutually correct their one-sidednesses. The Cardinal Martini has said that Church of our time is not and will not be a great power, but it has to be a voice. This voice needs to be prophetic and competent, understandable and lacking arrogance, with good arguments, without populism, cheap phrases and catchphrases, without nostalgia for the past, which shall not come back.
I see the future of Europe precisely in this dialogue, where the secular humanism and Christian humanism realise, that they need each other mutually and in their irreplaceability. In the time when Catholicism enclosed itself in self-seclusion, many values of Christianity – for example the idea of human rights – have found their expression outside of the Church. There is also a “Christanity behind the visible borders of the Churchers”, implicit, “anonymous Christianity”, which has less and less agreed with the “organised religion” of the Christian churches.
The time when the Christian political parties were understood as a “prolonged arm” of the church hierarchy, when a “marriage” existed between Churches and political parties, when the parties expected a clear support from the Churches and the Churches have seen in the parties mainly an instrument of defence of their institutional interests, is gone.
There are less and less people who do fully identify themselves with the Churches. If the parties which have risen from the traditions of Christian democracy turned only to them, it would be the beginning of their end. But there are many of those “partially identified”. It is improbable that all of them might be turned into “standard Christians” and brought into church benches. But the future of Christianity in Europe and the future character of Europe depend on how this significant portion of the European populace will evolve. And there lies a large field also for your political activities.
It would be very dangerous, if the Christian politicians of Europe would ally after the fashion of American “Religious Right” with the religious fundamentalism, if they would want to profit from the fear from Islam and revive the spirit of Crusades. The growth of Islam in the world and the growing presence of Islam in Europe is a reality. It would be a great failure on the side of Christians, if they would join the party of xenophobia and intolerance. The future and character of Islam in Europe is based from a major part on the way of behaviour and attitude of Christians to the Muslims. The main hostility is not between Islam and Christianity, but between the Islam and aggressive, intolerant secularism of certain nationalistic groups in the West. The great historical role of contemporary Christians should be in effort to avert conflicts between the West and Islamic world, to mediate dialogue and understanding between the two worlds, which are too often influenced by mutual prejudices. Christianity is the only force of this world which has something common to both of them – with the monotheism of Islam as well as with the secular world of the West which has been conceived in the bosom of Christendom and still shares many features with it.
I wish to your meeting in Karlovy Vary as well as to all your future works a spirit of wisdom.