“Europe is particularly dear to Pope Francis, not only because of his family origins, but also because of the central role in the history of humanity,” Parolin said, referring to the Argentine pope’s Italian ancestry.
“He hoped that Europe could rediscover its Christian roots, starting from this path of fraternity, which undoubtedly inspired and animated the Founding Fathers of modern Europe, beginning precisely with Robert Schuman,” the cardinal said, highlighting the French statesman declared “venerable” by the pope last month.
Parolin said that in a pluralistic Europe, the Church’s task was to “elevate man” not only in his body, “but also in his soul and spirit.”
“Without respect for man in his natural and supernatural dignity of being in the image and likeness of God, his Lord and Creator, society will never be better,” he said.
In conclusion, Parolin said, “whoever wants to create a just, equitable, supportive and fraternal humanity must place man and his dignity at the center.”
“Man, however, is not the one who was conceived by man, but the one who was created by the Lord in his own image and likeness. It is the Christian who lives in Christ, who creates, once again, the history of the Church and the history of Europe and humanity.”
“Great is the responsibility of the Christian, great is your mission in this city, the European capital.”
Before the Mass and episcopal ordination, Parolin addressed the political and civil leaders of Alsace, a terrority that returned to French control in 1945 after several periods of German rule.
He noted that the region is still governed by the provisions of the Concordat of 1801 agreed by Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII.
He observed that Msgr. Reithinger’s appointment as an auxiliary bishop of Strasbourg followed the process outlined in the Concordat, with the nomination approved by French President Emmanuel Macron and published in the Official Journal of the French Republic, the government gazette, on June 26.
Parolin reflected on how the French Revolution that preceded the concordat sought to split religion and politics apart.
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“The French Revolution radically altered the age-old confrontation between Church and state, because for the first time it was claimed that the Church -- and with it religion in general -- was excluded from the social sphere,” he said.
He traced the Church’s response to this historic development, underlining the importance of the Second Vatican Council’s recognition of the “autonomy of earthly affairs.”
He said that concordats signed by the Church in modern times acknowledged both the independence of Church and state and their interdependence.
He suggested that “where concordats, agreements or conventions exist, a positive relationship of collaboration tends to develop between the state authorities and the religious authorities.”
“When such positive cooperation exists, it is also easier for the state to guarantee a space of freedom and respect for human rights for all,” he said.
“This is particularly true in this region, which, thanks to the Concordat, which is still valid today, has been able to develop its undisputed vocation as a crossroads of encounter and brotherhood, not only between the peoples who have inhabited this land for centuries, but also for all of contemporary Europe, which took its first steps here after the wounds of the Second World War.”