Europe is doomed if it doesn’t rediscover the true meaning of conscience, warned Pope Benedict XVI on the first day of his visit to Croatia.
“If, in keeping with the prevailing modern idea, conscience is reduced to the subjective field to which religion and morality have been banished, then the crisis of the West has no remedy and Europe is destined to collapse in on itself,” the Pope told a gathering of members from Croatia’s civil society in the capital of Zagreb on June 4.
“If, on the other hand, conscience is rediscovered as the place in which to listen to truth and good, the place of responsibility before God and before fellow human beings – in other words, the bulwark against all forms of tyranny – then there is hope for the future.”
Several hundred key figures from the world of Croatian politics, academia, culture, arts and sport gathered at the country’s national theatre to hear the Pope. His speech echoed his prior warnings against the “dictatorship of relativism.”
He told the assembled dignitaries that many of the “great achievements of the modern age” such as “the recognition and guarantee of freedom of conscience, of human rights, of the freedom of science and hence of a free society” would be undone unless “reason and freedom” were kept rooted in “their transcendent foundation” of God.
To make his point, the Pope drew upon the life and work of Father Ruder Josip Boskovic, an early 18th century Croatian Jesuit, who was a great theologian, physicist, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher and poet.
Boskovic, said the Pope, was a clear example of “the happy symbiosis of faith and scholarship” in which “there is study of multiple branches of knowledge, but there is also a passion for unity,” and where learning is both “diversified and capable of synthesis.”
This forming of consciences rooted in faith and reason is where “the Church makes her most specific and valuable contribution to society,” said the Pope, stressing that this formation should begin in the home, the parish and the school.
In this way children “learn what it means for a community to be built upon gift, not upon economic interests or ideology, but upon love,” and so society is transformed for the better.
Pope Benedict explained that the impact of living in this selfless way, when “learnt in infancy and adolescence, is then lived out in every area of life, in games, in sport, in interpersonal relations, in art, in voluntary service to the poor and the suffering.”
And once this way of life has taken root, "it can be applied to the most complex areas of political and economic life so as to build up a polis that is welcoming and hospitable, but at the same time not empty, not falsely neutral, but rich in humanity, with a strongly ethical dimension.”
The Pope is visiting Croatia to celebrate the local church’s annual family day on June 5. Over 300,000 are expected to attend the Mass at a local Zagreb racetrack. The visit will last only two days, concluding tomorrow.