Don't Exclude Church from Social Life, Says Pope

European Bishops Reflect on Challenges After Berlin Wall

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging the European bishops to refrain from excluding the Church from social and cultural life, even while upholding its just distinction from the State.



The Pope affirmed this in a message sent to Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary.

The council held its plenary assembly in Paris last week, in which it focused on the theme "Church-State Relations 20 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall."
 
The message, signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state on the Pontiff's behalf, affirmed that the Church is "faithful to her mission of truth in favor of a society to the measure of man, of his dignity and of his vocation."

It added that this fidelity "is guarantee of an integral human development, remedy for the many imbalances that our world is suffering today."
 
Therefore, the Church herself "desires that the life of men and peoples be inspired and animated by charity," the Holy Father affirmed.

He continued, "Thus the latter will contribute to the building of that city of God toward which the human family is journeying."

New challenges
 
In his intervention Oct. 1, at the beginning of the assembly, Cardinal Erdo said that 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, "which is the symbol of the end, in many of our countries, of atheistic and Communist regimes, we are now living other difficulties and challenges."
 
He explained: "The European Union, to which many of our countries belong, is about to undertake new initiatives stemming from the Treaty of Lisbon.

"The Church supports all that which can lead to reinforce peace and relations of solidarity between countries, but will always be vigilant to ensure that the common good, respect for life and religious liberty are guaranteed."
 
Today, the cardinal said, "Europe needs more priests," and "the Church in Europe has great need of laypeople, families [and] persons who, in their places of work and in their homes, in politics, in culture, in social institutions, in schools and in universities can truly be the face of Christ."
 
On Friday, Giorgio Feliciani, professor of the Center of Studies on Ecclesiastical Entities at the Catholic University of Milan, presented a report to the council on the results of European research on Church and State.
 
In regard to the juridical status of the Catholic Church in the various European countries, the research revealed that "almost by unanimity, the answers received point out the existence of ways of relation between the bishops' conference and the state authorities," though "obviously the ways are very diversified."
 
The research, which was promoted by the council, showed that "the bishops' conferences have an important role in the Church's relations with States," though each may take a diverse form.

It added that "relations with local entities are better than at the national level."

Social matters
 
In regard to the Church's interventions in important social matters, the report stated that "from the complexity of the answers it can be deduced that in some countries they are appreciated or at least taken into consideration, such as in Germany, France, Lithuania, but also in Albania and Greece."
 
"In other States, instead, no attention is paid to them whatsoever -- Bosnia and Slovenia," it noted.

Above all, the report observed, the conferences arouse active hostility when they are in contrast to the prevailing mentality, as the Austrian and Greek bishops revealed, which can even result in ridicule by the media, as the Swiss bishops lament.
 
However, it stated, "the episcopates of England, Moldavia, Poland and Portugal state, very correctly, that it is necessary to distinguish" between certain issues.

In fact, the report continued, "whereas statements on topics of sexuality, family, bioethics, if not ignored, arouse negative reactions, those which touch upon social topics such as human rights, solidarity and development are appreciated and valued."
 
It affirmed: "Those who oppose the former, regarding them as undue interference, would like greater commitment by the Church to the latter. This is, by direct knowledge, the Italian situation."
 
In any case, the report concluded, "it should be kept in mind that taking public positions, assumed together with other Churches or jointly with the Jewish or Muslim communities, and persons without religious conviction, are more listened to."