In a Wednesday speech at Catholic University of America (CUA), Cardinal Christoph Schönborn lauded Christians’ freedom from “political correctness” and “the latest fashions.” Seeing hope for renewal in past monastic movements and in the contemporary United States, he discussed the relationship between Christianity and the modern West.
His speech, titled “Christianity: Alien Presence or Foundation of the West?” discussed Christianity’s “paradoxical” place in contemporary Europe. According to a press release from the university, he said Christianity is both alien and foundational to modernity in different ways.
“On the one hand, Christianity is Europe’s roots. On the other hand, these roots are more and more forgotten, ignored, and in an alarming way. Christianity is for many a foreign element in a world determined by reason, enlightenment and democratic principles.”
The cardinal said he does not believe that Europe and the Western world will survive without Christianity, whose decline on the continent he described as shocking.
Although Christianity has taken a secondary role in public life, he said, it is not obsolete and there is a “new desire” that sometimes turns people towards the religion.
While some ideologies see Christianity as an enemy of freedom, the cardinal said Christians have “dual citizenship” in earthly and heavenly cities because he or she is “never only a citizen of the state.”
Christian witness to this fact led to the deaths of millions of martyrs under 20th century totalitarianism.
According to Zenit, Cardinal Schönborn said Christianity offers “freedom from the demands of the mainstream, from political correctness, or simply from the pressure of the latest fashions.”
The monastic movements that renewed and reformed the Church were an example of this freedom, he added.
The cardinal also said the United States is “a country of great hope” for the Church, according to CUA. “There is a true renewal of Catholic commitment in this country, and this gives us great hope. I hope you do not forget in your prayers good old mother Europe.”
The cardinal’s visit to CUA was part of a six-day visit to the U.S. He also made stops in Kansas City and New York City.