During a meeting held this Sunday afternoon at the Archdiocese of Prague, Pope Benedict XVI warned members of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic that in a country where about half the population claim to be “non-believers,” there is a risk that Christianity will be marginalized from public life.
“Europe continues to undergo many changes. It is hard to believe that only two decades have passed since the collapse of former regimes gave way to a difficult but productive transition towards more participatory political structures,” said the Pope at the beginning of his address.
“During this period,” he continued, “Christians joined together with others of good will in helping to rebuild a just political order, and they continue to engage in dialogue today in order to pave new ways towards mutual understanding, cooperation for peace and the advancement of the common good.”
“Attempts to marginalize the influence of Christianity upon public life, sometimes under the pretext that its teachings are detrimental to the well-being of society, are emerging in new forms,” the Holy Father warned, saying that this phenomenon “gives us pause to reflect.”
“We may ask ourselves: what does the Gospel have to say to the Czech Republic and indeed all of Europe today in a period marked by proliferating world views?”
“Christianity,” Pope Benedict explained, “has much to offer on the practical and ethical level, for the Gospel never ceases to inspire men and women to place themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters. Few would dispute this. Yet those who fix their gaze upon Jesus of Nazareth with eyes of faith know that God offers a deeper reality which is nonetheless inseparable from the ‘economy’ of charity at work in this world: He offers salvation.”
The Holy Father said that Christians must take confidence “in knowing that the Church’s proclamation of salvation in Christ Jesus is ever ancient and ever new, steeped in the wisdom of the past and brimming with hope for the future.”
“As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance. Indeed, her memory of the past animates her aspirations for the future,” he added.
Pope Benedict then said that Christians today must open themselves to present realities and affirm “all that is good in society.” They “must have the courage to invite men and women to the radical conversion that ensues upon an encounter with Christ and ushers in a new life of grace.”
“Dear friends, let us ask the Lord to implant within us a spirit of courage to share the timeless saving truths which have shaped, and will continue to shape, the social and cultural progress of this continent,” he concluded.