Europe on the paths of faith
Archbishop Józef Michalik
In the Church, since its beginning, there have been synods, Vatican councils and different kinds of initiatives in dioceses and parishes, which aim at bringing bishops closer to the faithful and raising the awareness that everybody is responsible for the Church. Our responsibility concerns the general Church as a unity. This truth lies at the base of papal travels and at the base of different bishops' meetings.
The meeting of the Council of Europe Episcopates Conference
The Council of Europe Episcopates Conference was summoned so that it would be a place of contacts and reflections on important issues in particular European Churches. It is somehow listening to the rhythm of the life of the Church in Europe. This time the meeting of the new Presidency was taking place in Rome where we also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the existence of this organism. The conclusion which results from this meeting is that today in Europe we are witnesses of the crisis in Christian civilization but not the crisis in Christian faith. The crisis of the civilization is based on the fact that people renounce the direct influence of Christianity on particular social situations. It is revealed in practice what a German theologian Johann Baptist Metz wrote about when the EU constitution was being formulated: 'Nowadays also political Europe has got difficulties with itself - and it is because of Christianity'. In discussions preceding the adoption of the EU constitution it was heard: ''Europe is a secular project and therefore, there is no place for Christianity in the European constitution''. The postulated neutrality can have two versions: one of them can be called a secularized version, another - pluralistic version. (...) The pluralistic version does not remove religion from the public sphere but forces it to the public confrontation with the constitutional pluralism of religion and philosophy of life. The secularized version is based on strict privatization of religion. In fact, it is not neutral towards religion because in its concept of neutrality it privileges the negative anti-religious freedom, as the freedom from religion. This secularized version which was accepted in the present project of the constitution, aims not at secular but secularized Europe'. Despite these secularized attempts degrading the European civilization built on the Judeo-Christian fundaments, it is also possible to notice big demand of religion, Christianity, the Gospel. If this need is not satisfied by real religion or if it is not shown that the human dignity lies in his reference to God then people will be looking for alternative means to realize this deep need for the contact with the absolute reality.
At the session of the Papal Council for the Secular
By the way of the visit in Rome, I also participated in this year's session of the Papal Council for the Secular, in which I am a consultor. The subject of the reflection was the question: How to tell the contemporary man about God? Prominent thinkers present at the session, who have converted themselves to faith recently, gave their testimonies of their happiness coming from their choice and told why they had converted themselves to faith and which way God was leading them on the path of faith. We met with the Holy Father three times. The general Audience took place just after the return of the Pope from Benin. Then we met with Benedict XVI on the occasion of the visit by a working group for ecumenical contacts which is created by Orthodox patriarch delegates from Constantinopole, Moscow and Greece. The most important and the longest general audience of our presidency made it possible for us discuss with the Pope the programs of work, for the near year and present the situation of the Church in particular European countries. The Holy Father asked, among the others, about priests' vocations in Poland. I said that - according to the initial estimations - we can see a slight increase in comparison with the previous year, for example, in Przemyśl 20 alumni were accepted to seminaries last year, and this year - 25. I also told the Holy Father about the initiatives of life defenders taken up by secular people - dr. Mariusz Dzierżawski and Jacek Sapa - who collected 600 thousands of signatures under the civic anti-abortion law and forced the Seym to deal with this matter. And although parliamentarians lacked their good will and the law was rejected, the initiators announce another action whose aim is awakening the social conscience responsible for the ethics of life. The Pope also asked about what is worrying. I answered that we are still not socially active enough as a nation, that only 48% of the entitled for voting have taken part in the elections, that we are discouraged and express our disapproval of the politics in Europe and Poland, which is the politics not giving any hope. People do not believe that their engagement would change anything and this makes it difficult to show new honest politicians and this blocks actions of those elected because they need possibilities, consciousness that they are supported by somebody that they are not alone and that obstacles can be overcome together.
'Report about the state of faith in Poland'
Friendly journalists suggested the need of publications of a wide text on the situation of the Church in Poland, arguing that the Church should be more present in the mass media because it is a 'new continent' for evangelization. It is a 'place of existence' of young people, their image of the reality is created there and because we are not duly present in this virtual space, we are getting away from them. Therefore, we must mobilize people who believe, also young Catholics to enter a dialogue with the people at their age, introducing the rules of Gospel and the Christian moral judgment in this reality. An attempt of this dialogue is a book 'Report about the state of faith in Poland' which includes several month talks. It gives an opportunity to look at some issues of faith from a different point of view and it raises much interest. A conclusion comes from it that it is worth and necessary to base on the experience of the secular Catholics.
Some journalists, publicists and writers are strongly present in the world of politics and they do not have time or will to think over important questions or a fundamental meaning for permanent development and future of the nation, Europe and the world. Our role is to show what is really important, to show the ethics and hierarchy of values and not only the form of the reality and remind of the fundaments of existence. And on this area a decisive fight for new anthropology will take place, a fight for a look at the man and the presence of God in our life and for our salvation.
What must we do so that peace, happiness and the sense of safety would come back to people in Europe and Poland? We must notice the presence of God who became a man and who speaks our language. It is the incarnated word, Logos, God's Son! The answer for the question about a path lies in the lively Church. The answer lies in the word 'together', because only together we can build our holy home. This undertaking requires cooperation and unanimity among the laic and clergy members in the Church. Our judgements, arguments and a way of looking at the reality must be common, which are enriched by thought exchange and humble common quest of an answer. The role of tradition and experience is extremely important here - let's maintain what has turned out to be good throughout centuries. Let's use the methods which have been tried out and let's reach for the new ones slowly and responsibly. Many people try to persuade us into thinking that being a Catholic is not modern but naive. This method is characteristic for ideologies hostile to Christianity - all of them started from this and all of them finished quickly. Our method is to maintain in love to God and people, with hope for encouraging everybody for the truth and good, which is connected with the faithful and constant proclaiming the Gospel. It will be effective and safer if we start to love the Church like our family home.