The Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola, explained this week that Catholics need to bear witness to their faith in public life, showing society the richness of the Gospel, where the answers man is seeking can be found. He also noted that today many are working to silence the necessary contribution of the faithful to the world.
In an editorial entitled, "Catholics, the Laity and Civil Society," published on February 20 by the Italian daily Avvenire, and presented in English by Vatican analyst Sandro Magister, the cardinal explained that there are two cultural interpretations of Christianity that are at odds with each other and appear to be reductive.
The first treats Christianity as a civil religion, "as mere ethical cement, capable of acting as a social adhesive for our democracy and for the European democracies in grave distress. If such a position is plausible to those who do not believe, its structural insufficiency should be evident to those who do believe. The other, more subtle interpretation is the one that tends to reduce Christianity to the proclamation of the pure, unadorned Cross, for the salvation of ‘everyone else’."
"There is another cultural interpretation that to me seems more respectful of the nature of man and his being in relationship," the cardinal continued. "This runs along the ridge that separates civil religion from diaspora and concealment. It presents the coming of Jesus Christ in its entirety – incapable of being reduced to any human federation – and displays the heart of this, which lives in the Church's faith on behalf of all people. In what way? Through the Church's proclamation of all the mysteries of faith in their entirety, as skillfully compiled in the catechism," he said.
The Patriarch of Venice later noted that, "respecting the specific responsibility of the lay faithful in the political domain, it is nonetheless evident that if every member of the faithful, from the Pope to the last of the baptized, were not to share openly what he believes are the valid answers to the questions that trouble the human heart every day, and bear witness to the practical implications of his own faith, he would take something away from others. He would withhold a positive contribution, he would not participate in the common effort to build up the good life."
After stressing that "this exchange must extend 360 degrees, to everyone, no one excluded," Cardinal Schola emphasized that by engaging in this "dialogue humbly but firmly with everyone, it can be seen that the action of the Church is not aimed at hegemony, or in using the ideal of faith for the sake of power."
"Its real aim, in imitation of its Founder, is that of offering everyone the consolation of hope in eternal life. This hope can already be enjoyed in the "hundredfold here below," and helps us to face the crucial problems that make everyone's daily life fascinating and dramatic," the cardinal said.