.- In an interview for a new book on Europe since the end of the Cold War, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco of Madrid has stated that “religion is the greatest unifying factor in Europe, and the Catholic Church is the greatest unifying phenomenon in the European Union.”
According to the cardinal, the cultural and educational values of Europe all have Catholic underpinnings and therefore have enormous unifying force. “A living Christianity and a young and committed Catholic Church would be an invaluable and irreplaceable contribution to the future of the European Union. It would be a sort of religious, ethical and spiritual roadmap,” he said.
Because of these shared values and traditions, Cardinal Rouco noted, traveling from one’s own country to another in Europe does not give one the feeling of being in a foreign land.
“Europe must be built from the bottom up,” he said, “starting with friendships, personal communication and deeper roots such as religion and spirituality, and from there move on to sports, culture and tourism. This is very important if we want to build up Europe,” the cardinal stated.
He also maintained that the more principles of unity and solidarity are embraced in European political life the better. “For example, the principle of subsidiarity is steeped in Catholic tradition, which has much importance in building up Europe. The rich variety of Europe cannot be allowed to disappear, but there must be a balance.”
Cardinal Rouco said European Catholicism is one of the most “positive” challenges of Pope Benedict XVI. “After the collapse of the wall a Catholic world with a strong presence has emerged in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Romania and also somewhat in the Balkans. John Paul II was decisive in encouraging and nurturing the new youth movements” to bring the hope of renewal to the Catholic faith throughout Europe. Now, the cardinal said, Benedict XVI “has a challenge with an excellent future.”