Baltic Bishops Call Christianity Europe's "Unifying Force"

In the Context of the Union's Enlargement

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TALLINN, Estonia, MAY 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- As the European Union expanded, the Catholic bishops of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania issued a joint message stressing the fundamental role of the Christian faith in the Continent's history.



Saturday marked the entry in the European Union of the three Baltic republics, as well as Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus.

At the recent assembly of the Baltic episcopal conferences, the bishops referred to the Pope's words and affirmed their conviction that "on the basis of its historical, spiritual and cultural heritage, Europe has become a continent 'thanks to the unifying force of Christianity, which was able to integrate peoples and cultures.'"

"As Europeans, we want always to be profoundly conscious of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the past and we reaffirm, making our own the words of a great European, John Paul II, that 'a society that forgets its past exposes itself to the risk of not being able to face its present and, worse yet, of becoming a victim of its future,'" they said in their message to priests, religious and the laity of their republics.

"Our nations, which have known the painful experience of a life deprived of freedom in an atheist society, can witness to the importance of the faith and of religious values for the safeguarding of human dignity and the full development of man," the message states.

"Our Baltic republics have recovered their independence paying a high price for it; therefore, they very much appreciate the values of freedom and justice that can lead to a higher sense of responsibility to guarantee the welfare of all citizens," the bishops said.

On the basis of this heritage of common values, the bishops affirm their commitment to proclaim, defend and guarantee to future generations of Europeans "the values of human dignity, the sacredness of life from conception until natural death, the central role of the family based on marriage, solidarity with the poor, the principle of subsidiarity, the importance of law, and the promotion of freedom and democracy."

They added: "With the confidence that is born from our faith in the risen Lord and with the concern we share with the Holy Father for all the Churches, we affirm and repeat with him: 'Europe who are at the beginning of the third millennium: Open your doors to Christ! Be yourself. Rediscover your origins. Revive your roots.'"