Addressing 200 participants of a seminar organized by the Robert Schuman Foundation, Pope John Paul called Europeans not only to remember, but also to cherish their Christian roots.
Speaking first on Robert Shuman, the post-war French Minister of Foreign Affairs and regarded as the “father” of the European Union, the Pope noted he spent his “political life in the service of the fundamental values of freedom and solidarity, understood fully in the light of the Gospel.”
Schuman, in fact, helped reconcile Germans and French after the War. The blue and golden stars of the flag he proposed for Europe are inspired in the colors of Virgin Mary. The Church in France has started his cause of beatification.
“As Christians engaged in public life,” he remarked, “you have come together to reflect on the prospects currently opening up before Europe,” including the building of the “new” Europe which “means finding a proper balance between the role of the (European) Union and that of the member States, and between the unavoidable challenges which globalization presents to the continent and the respect of its historical and cultural distinctiveness, the national and religious identities of its people, and the specific contributions which can come from each member country.”
The Holy Father stated that “for this to happen, it is necessary that Europe recognize and preserve its most cherished patrimony, made up of those values which have and continue to guarantee her a providential influence in the history of civilization.”
The Pope acknowledged that “many cultural roots have helped to solidify these values,” “yet it is undeniable that Christianity has been the force able to promote, reconcile and consolidate them,” he explained.
“For this reason,” he continued, “it seems logical that the future European constitutional treaty, aimed at achieving ‘unity in diversity’, should make explicit mention of the Christian roots of the continent. A society forgetful of its past is exposed to the risk of not being able to deal with its present and – worse yet – of becoming the victim of its future!”
“In this regard,” John Paul II added, “I am pleased to note that many of you come from countries preparing to enter the Union, countries for which Christianity often provided decisive assistance on the path towards freedom.”
“From this standpoint you can also easily see how unjust it would be for today’s Europe to conceal the pivotal contribution made by Christians to the downfall of oppressive regimes of whatever stripe and to the building of authentic democracy,” he said.
The Pope concluded calling Catholics to a greater involvement in political activism. “The complaints often made against political activity do not justify an attitude of disengaged skepticism on the part of the Catholic, who instead has the duty of assuming responsibility for the well-being of society,” he finally said.