Christians have duty to revitalize, change world with hope, pope says

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The joyful hope that flows from
faith can change the world, which is why Christians have a crucial part to play
in revitalizing Europe, Pope Francis said.

“To speak of a Christian contribution to the future
of the continent means, before all else, to consider our task as Christians
today in these lands which have been so richly shaped by the faith down the
centuries,” he said Oct. 28.

Christians, he said, must ask, “What is our
responsibility at a time when the face of Europe is increasingly distinguished
by a plurality of cultures and religions, while for many people Christianity is
regarded as a thing of the past, both alien and irrelevant?”

The pope made his comments in a lengthy speech at a
high-level meeting of politicians and church leaders in the European Union. The
Oct. 27-29 meeting, organized by the Holy See and the Commission of the
Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), was dedicated to how
the church could contribute to the future of Europe.

“Christians are called to revitalize Europe and to
revive its conscience, not by occupying spaces — this would be proselytizing
— but by generating processes capable of awakening new energies in
society,” he said. In essence, Christians can be the soul — the animating
force — within the body of every community.

This force of joyful hope rooted in faith can help
communities understand and promote the basic, critical principles needed to
thrive: the dignity of every person; the importance of community; the true place
of dialogue; a culture of inclusion; and solidarity, development and peace.

“The first and perhaps the greatest contribution
that Christians can make to today’s Europe is to remind her that she is not a
mass of statistics or institutions, but is made up of people,” he said.

“Sadly, we see how frequently issues get reduced to
discussions about numbers,” he said. “There are no citizens, only
votes. There are no migrants, only quotas. There are no workers, only economic
markers. There are no poor, only thresholds of poverty.”

“Soulless” statistics offer a convenient
“alibi for not getting involved” because it’s easier to not feel
moved or responsible before “comfortable and reassuring” abstract
principles, he said. Instead, when the real human faces are seen behind the
numbers, “they force us to assume a responsibility that is real, personal
and effective.”

“The second contribution that Christians can make to
the future of Europe, then, is to help recover the sense of belonging to a
community,” Pope Francis said.

The concept of freedom in the West “is misunderstood
and seen as if it were a right to be left alone, free from all bonds,” the
pope said. This has led to a serious problem in which communities lack a sense
of belonging and of being rooted in their own past.

Just like families, he said, communities are “alive
when they are capable of openness, embracing the differences and gifts of each
person while at the same time generating new life, development, labor,
innovation and culture.”

When it comes to dialogue, he said, it must be remembered
that “religion in general” plays a positive and constructive role in
building communities.

“Regrettably, a certain secularist prejudice, still
in vogue, is incapable of seeing the positive value of religion’s public and
objective role in society, preferring to relegate it to the realm of the merely
private and sentimental,” he said.

“The result is the predominance of a certain
groupthink, quite apparent in international meetings, which sees the
affirmation of religious identity as a threat to itself and its dominance, and
ends up promoting an ersatz conflict between the right to religious freedom and
other fundamental rights,” he added.

Even though promoting dialogue is a key responsibility of
politics, “Christians are called to promote political dialogue, especially
where it is threatened and where conflict seems to prevail,” the pope

“Sadly, all too often we see how politics is
becoming instead a forum for clashes between opposing forces,” he said.
“The voice of dialogue is replaced by shouted claims and demands. One
often has the feeling that the primary goal is no longer the common good.”

“Extremist and populist groups are finding fertile
ground in many countries; they make protest the heart of their political
message, without offering the alternative of a constructive political
project,” he said.

“Christians are called to restore dignity to
politics and to view politics as a lofty service to the common good, not a
platform for power,” the pope said.

Lastly, when it comes to promoting a culture of
inclusion, differences must be valued and viewed as a shared source of
enrichment, he said.

“Seen in this way, migrants are more a resource than
a burden,” he said, and Christians, in particular, “are called to meditate
seriously on Jesus’ words: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'”

“Especially when faced with the tragedy of displaced
persons and refugees, we must not forget that we are dealing with persons, who
cannot be welcomed or rejected at our own pleasure, or in accordance with
political, economic or even religious ideas,” he added.

Governments have a duty to address migration with
prudence, that is, having “an open heart,” but also acting in
accordance to their ability to provide for the full integration of those
entering their countries.

“We cannot regard the phenomenon of migration as an
indiscriminate and unregulated process, but neither can we erect walls of
indifference and fear,” the pope said. And migrants, too, “must not
neglect their own grave responsibility to learn, respect and assimilate the
culture and traditions of the nations that welcome them.”

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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