Church is a vital sign of unity in Europe, says Archbishop Lajolo; its history and role cannot be ignored, or put aside

On Friday, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States, told members of the fifth International Congress of the Pontifical Academy of Theology that the role of the Church in Europe is one of profound importance--both historically and in its teaching about the "ultimate truths of humanity."

The Archbishop spoke on, "The Role of the Church and Christians in the Future of Europe" to members of the Congress, which was held in Krakow, Poland.

Archbishop Lajolo spoke first on "the attention the Popes have given to Europe" which, he said, "has always been lively, constructive and encouraging."

He specifically recalled, among others, Pope Pius XII who "publicly endorsed the idea of forming a European Union," and of the late John Paul II who "played an historical role in assisting that process which started here in Poland and led to the collapse of the unnatural division imposed upon Europe by a materialist ideology and an antihuman power."

The Archbishop also referred to the presence "of the Church as an institution" and "of Christians as members of the Church and citizens of Europe," in the so-called "old continent."

Their presence, he said, is "a human and social reality, openly visible in its religious identity, and not to be confused with any other reality. It would be political forgery if Europe were to ignore such a reality or seek to put it aside."

He then went on to discuss the specific contributions which Catholics and Christians can make to Europe, saying that "the Church is the 'columna et firmamentum veritatis' [pillar and bulwark of the truth], ... a true champion of human reason, capable of reaching not only mathematical truths or truths of the natural physical sciences, but also the ultimate truths about humanity: those truths that alone can reveal the ultimate meaning of human existence and, therefore, allow for the great trends of the spirit."

The Vatican secretary added that the Church is also "'communio caritatis' [communion of charity], ... the communion of all the particular churches with the Church of Rome and among themselves. ... In the Church, as in no other human reality, the unity of all is realized in the diversity of the parts. The Church mirrors the variety of peoples, of their languages, customs and traditions in the oneness of faith and morals. ... Thus, the Church is naturally a factor of unity among different nations."

"Given the fundamental lines of action about which I have just spoken," he said, "it is easy to identify some institutions of different but always significant public importance, to which the Church has given, and will never cease to give, her own specific contribution."

These, the Vatican pointed out are: the family, educational institutions, and health care institutions.

Archbishop Lajolo concluded: "In contemporary pluralistic and ideologically diverse society, Christians must know how to measure and gather their own forces, and then unite their forces to those of other men and women of good will, in the search for a Europe which will be worthy of the spiritual heritage which our fathers have left us, in the search for a Europe as it was dreamed by the great spirits of the twentieth century."

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