During a recent symposium in Rome on the Orthodox and Catholic Churches of Europe, the no-nonsense president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, reflected briefly on the future of Europe. With his characteristic frankness, he said, "If Europe wants to have a future again, it must first and foremost renew its Christian roots."
The symposium “Orthodox and Catholics in Europe today. The Christian roots and the common cultural heritage of the East and West” took place Wednesday afternoon at the Rome's Russian Orthodox parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria. It one of a number of events during the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican," running from May 19-20.
Speaking of ecumenism and the goal of achieving full communion between Christians, Cardinal Kasper noted the necessity of using dialogue in efforts and not force or submission, according to SIR news.
Recalling the "new intensity and urgency" in the commitment to relations between Eastern and Western churches after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the cardinal said that it also brought back to the surface the schism between Rome and Constantinople in the 11th century.
Evidence of "existential emptiness" was seen on both sides, remarked the head of the Vatican dicastery for Christian Unity. The West was seen to be characterized by "post-modern indifferentism and the mentality of consumer escapism,” while the East was marked by “the blameworthy traces and spiritual devastation” resulting from “atheist propaganda” of the Communist era, Cardinal Kasper observed.
Addressing these issues in the current situation, Cardinal Kasper warned, “If Europe wants to have a future again, it must first and foremost renew its Christian roots.” This renewal's only chance of success, he added, is through the re-evangelization of the continent.
The 77-year-old prelate noted that in their crises, the East and West face similar challenges, historically being civilizations "deeply defined by the Christian faith."
He added that it isn't Christianity itself, rather its "inculturation" that is in danger in Europe. The continent is marked by spiritual weakness, he said, and it needs a renewal beginning with the healing of Christian divisions.
“To find its spiritual and missionary strength again, Europe needs a new-found unity, first and foremost among Christians.”
In that vein, a joint Italian-Russian Academy was inaugurated today in Rome. The Academy will offer a permanent place for encounters between Church and civil delegates and for the development of relations between the nations.
The culminating event of the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican" is a concert offered Thursday evening at Paul VI Hall as a gift from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I to Pope Benedict XVI.