Vienna’s Cardinal Christof Schönborn inaugurated an international
symposium to discuss the growing rift between the two shores of the
Atlantic, stressing that the United States and Europe both need to
listen to criticism from the other on critical cultural matters.
“Europe, he said during his opening speech, “should be open to critical voices that are raised against [them] from the United Sates.”
Cardinal Schonborn--who himself called for the symposium--recalled his own gratitude for the liberation of Austria by the Americans in 1945. He then stressed the “common Christian roots of both continents,” saying that “An essential difference between Europe and the U.S. would be the greater value given to the role of Christianity in the United States.”
“Today, Europeans are hearing from the Muslims living in their midst, that religion is not only for private, but also has its place on the Public square,” the cardinal said, reminding his listeners of the words of former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to the German President: “If you want dialogue, then you should recognize your roots, otherwise no dialogue is possible.”
“We have been witnessing for a long time the growing divide between Europe and the United States. What can be done to stop this?” the cardinal asked.
The prelate also mentioned an article from writer and columnist George Weigel titled “Europe’s Problem-and ours” published in 2004 in ‘First Things’, a Catholic monthly review.
In it, he stressed the ironic turn that European’s integration progress has taken, accompanied by a loss of power and of identity. He likewise pointed to Europe’s rejection of its Christian roots, giving way to a hedonistic secularized society.
Weigel, who is also present at the symposium, said Thursday said that “Europe is on the brink of committing ‘Demographical Suicide’, which threatens the pension system. It’s about something deeper. The soul of Europe is penetrated by ‘the Dictatorship of Relativism,’ as Pope Benedict XVI said.”
Other symposium participants included French philosopher Remi Brague, who voiced his skepticism for a genuine dialogue with Islam, and also criticized a certain perception of modernism, which he said can be witnessed in Spain, which has one the lowest birth rates in the world.
Law philosopher Joseph Weiler was also on hand and expressed his great concern for Europe’s future. “Europe doesn’t need a new constitution. What keeps me worried is rather the demoralization of Society. The participation in elections has been strongly reduced; it shows a lack of interest in the European Union project.”
Other prominent intellectuals who are scheduled to lecture during the symposium are American Priest and Writer Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, former Polish Ambassador in Austria Irena Lipowicz, Italian Senate president Marcello Pera, and Law researcher Lord Daniel Brennan among others. The symposium will be held in Vienna, at the Archbishop’s Palace until Saturday.
This evening, Weigel will give a lecture discussing, "Politics and God: Thoughts on the Democratic Future in the Twenty-First century."