.- As he met today with members of the European parliamentary group, the Popular Party, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Europe to recognize its Christian roots and charged that ignoring them would be a sign of immaturity and even weakness.
The group met with the Holy Father during the “Study Days on Europe,” an initiative organized by the party.
Speaking in English, Benedict told the parliamentarians that "Roman Pontiffs have always devoted particular attention to this continent; today's audience is a case in point, and it takes its place in the long series of meetings between my predecessors and political movements of Christian inspiration."
He explained that "At present, Europe has to address complex issues of great importance, such as the growth and development of European integration, the increasingly precise definition of neighborhood policy within the Union and the debate over its social model.”
“In order to attain these goals,” he continued, “it will be important to draw inspiration, with creative fidelity, from the Christian heritage which has made such a particular contribution to forging the identity of this continent.”
The Holy Father encouraged Europe to value its Christian roots, and in doing so, he said they will “be able to give a secure direction to the choices of its citizens and peoples.”
Likewise, he said “It will strengthen [Europe’s] awareness of belonging to a common civilization and it will nourish the commitment of all to address the challenges of the present for the sake of a better future."
Benedict thanked the Popular Party for their own "recognition of Europe's Christian heritage" which, he said, "offers valuable ethical guidelines in the search for a social model that responds adequately to the demands of an already globalized economy.”
It will help assure, he said, “growth and employment, protection of the family, equal opportunities for education of the young and solicitude for the poor.”
"Your support for the Christian heritage,” he told the group, “can contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe, which relegates to the private and subjective sphere the manifestation of one's own religious convictions.”
“Policies built on this foundation”, the Pope stressed, “not only entail the repudiation of Christianity's public role; more generally, they exclude engagement with Europe's religious tradition, which is so clear, despite its denominational variations, thereby threatening democracy itself, whose strength depends on the values that it promotes."
He also pointed out that opposing or ignoring the European Christian tradition "would be a sign of immaturity, if not indeed weakness. ... In this context one has to recognize that a certain secular intransigence shows itself to be the enemy of tolerance and of a sound secular vision of State and society."
The Pontiff said he was pleased however, "that the European Union's constitutional treaty envisages a structured and ongoing relationship with religious communities, recognizing their identity and their specific contribution.”
He said that above all, he trusts “that the effective and correct implementation of this relationship will start now, with the cooperation of all political movements irrespective of party alignments.”