The Pope said today in an address in the reception hall of Vienna's Hofburg Palace, the seat of the Austrian presidency, that "Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots. These represent a dynamic component of our civilization as we move forward into the third millennium."
On the first day of the Pontiff's seventh international apostolic trip, he said that the concept of the "'European model of life' ... refers to a social order marked by a sound economy combined with social justice, by political pluralism combined with tolerance, generosity and openness, and at the same time the preservation of the values which have made this continent what it is."
"This model," he added, "under the pressure of modern economic forces, faces a great challenge."
The Holy Father continued: "The oft-cited process of globalization cannot be halted, yet it is an urgent task and a great responsibility of politics to regulate and limit globalization, so that it will not occur at the expense of the poorer nations and of the poor in wealthier nations, and prove detrimental to future generations."
Benedict XVI reminded those present of religion's positive contribution to European society.
He quoted Jürgen Habermas, a non-Christian philosopher: "The egalitarian universalism which gave rise to the ideas of freedom and social coexistence, is a direct inheritance from the Jewish notion of justice and the Christian ethics of love.
"Substantially unchanged, this heritage has always been critically re-appropriated and newly interpreted. To this day an alternative to it does not exist."
The Holy Father also appealed to the European Union to assume "a role of leadership in the fight against global poverty and in efforts to promote peace."
He said, "With gratitude we can observe that the countries of Europe and the European Union are among those making the greatest contribution to international development, but they also need to make their political importance felt."