.- Pope John Paul II said today that it is not economic or political interests, or alliances of convenience, that forge bonds among peoples in Europe. Rather, the building blocks of a unified Europe must be the Christian and moral values common to all. The Holy Father welcomed pastors from the French province of Besancon and the archbishop and auxiliary bishop of Strasbourg.
He highlighted “the centuries-old presence of the Church in different countries of the continent through its participation in unity between peoples and cultures and in social life, notably in the educational, charitable, health care and social domains.”
“Thus, a Europe will be born whose identity rests on a community of values, a Europe of fraternity and solidarity” that seeks “the promotion of man, respect for his inalienable rights and the common good,” he added.
The Pope called on the pastors to protect “integral formation of young people, notably those who will be the nation’s leaders tomorrow. The Church hopes to enlighten them with the Gospel and the Magisterium. Here Catholic universities have a specific mission, to help youth to analyze particular situations and to envisage how to always place man at the center of their decisions.”
Pointing to the role of Christians in social life in all its forms, John Paul II said: “In political life, in the economy, in the workplace and in the family, it is up to the faithful to make Christ ever present and to make the Gospel values shine forth,” and to highlight man’s dignity, central place in the universe and primacy over individual interests.
“The participation of Christians in public life, the visible presence of the Catholic Church and other religious denominations takes nothing away from the principle of secularity nor from the State’s prerogatives. A well understood secularity must not be confused with secularism; it cannot erase personal and community beliefs. Religion cannot merely be placed to one side in the private sphere.”
The Holy Father stressed the importance of knowing one’s own religion and being aware of the traditions of other religions, pointing out the strong Muslim presence in France “with whom you try to maintain good relations and to promote inter-religious dialogue which is, as I’ve said before, a dialogue of life. Such a dialogue should also revive in Christians an awareness of their faith and their attachment to the Church.”
In concluding, the Pope told the prelates it was up to them “to intensify…relations with civil authorities and other categories of elected people in your country, in national and European parliaments, especially Catholic parliamentarians, and with international institutions.”