.- Speaking before yesterday’s Angelus prayer to a group if some 8,000 pilgrims in Les Combes, in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta, where he is vacationing, the Holy Father recalled Europe’s deeply Christian roots and challenged the continent to return to them.
Pope Benedict noted today’s feast of the Apostle James, "whose relics are venerated in the famous shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the destination of countless pilgrims from all over Europe.” He also recalled Friday‘s feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden, patroness of Europe, and the July 11th feast of St. Benedict, who he called “another great patron of the ‘old continent.”
“Contemplating these saints,” he said, “it is natural to pause and reflect on the contribution that Christianity has made, and continues to make, to the building of Europe.”
Benedict then turned to the pilgrimage made by "Servant of God John Paul II in 1982 to Santiago de Compostela, where he performed a solemn 'European act' during which he pronounced these memorable words: 'I, bishop of Rome and pastor of the Universal Church, from Santiago, address to you, old Europe, a cry full of love: Return to yourself! Be yourself! Discover your origins. Revive your roots. Experience again those authentic values that made your history glorious and your presence in other continents beneficial."
The Pope pointed out that during the 1982 visit, John Paul II launched "the project of a Europe aware of its own spiritual unity, based on the foundation of Christian values.”
“He returned to this theme on the occasion of World Youth Day 1989,” the Pope continued, “held at Santiago de Compostela, expressing his hope for a Europe without frontiers, a Europe that does not deny the Christian roots from which it grew and that does not renounce the true humanism of Christ's Gospel. How appropriate this call remains today in the light of recent events on the European continent."
The Holy Father then excitedly recalled the pilgrimage he will make next month "to a historic European cathedral, that of Cologne, where young people have an appointment for their 20th World Day.”
“We pray that the new generations,” he said, “drawing their vital lymph from Christ, many know how to be leavening in European society for a renewed humanism, one in which faith and reason cooperate in a fruitful dialogue for the promotion of man and the construction of true peace."