The Pope made this appeal in a message addressed today to the pontifical academies meeting in the Vatican, at a public session dedicated to "The Martyrs and Their Monumental Memories, Living Stones in the Making of Europe."
The purpose of these academies is to study fundamental issues of human learning (theological, philosophical and scientific) and to advise the Pope.
"Europe today is going through a change of age," the Holy Father said in his message. Therefore, it should "discover the profound bond between yesterday's history and today's."
It is a bond that unites "the evangelical witness given courageously in the first centuries of the Christian era by so many men and women, and the witness that, also in our days, many believers continue to give to the world to reaffirm the primacy of the Gospel of Christ and of charity," he explained.
Although there is no longer religious persecution in Europe, "Christians must frequently face more or less obvious forms of hostility and this commits them to give clear and courageous witness," John Paul II added.
The papal message, reported on Vatican Radio, continued by pointing out the contribution that today's Christians must make to the new Europe.
"Together with all men of good will," he said, "Christians are called to build an authentic common home, and not just an economic-financial edifice -- a home enriched by the memory of spiritual values, which found and find in the cross an eloquent symbol that summarizes and expresses them."
"The European continent is going through a time of disorientation; European Churches are also experiencing the temptation of the darkening of hope," the Pope emphasized.
Of particular concern is "the progressive loss of the Christian heritage, which is leading European culture to slide into a sort of silent apostasy in which man lives as if it did not exist," he said.
As the martyrs show, "obedience to the evangelical law generates a moral life and social coexistence that honor and promote the dignity of every person," he added. "It is up to us to gather this unique and exceptional patrimony, as the first Christian generations did, who built monumental basilicas and places of pilgrimage over the tombs of the martyrs to remind everyone of their supreme sacrifice."
Christians today "must not forget the roots of their experience of faith and of their civil commitment," the papal message concluded.