Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states of the Vatican Secretariat of State, mentioned the Holy See's main concerns at a conference in Italy's capital, marking the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
The conference was organized by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and ran from Friday to Sunday.
The first preoccupation Archbishop Mamberti spoke about was the "energy crisis." The Vatican official underlined its moral dimension, speaking of the need to "reduce the use of fossil fuels" and to look for diversification of energy sources, in order to promote "peace in the world and protection of the environment."
"The destruction of the environment, its inappropriate or selfish use and the violent cornering of the earth's resources, generate damage, conflicts and wars," he said.
As for economic challenges, above all in underdeveloped nations, the 55-year-old archbishop underlined the need to "give incentives to investments in research and innovation."
He added: "The Catholic Church is convinced that, inasmuch as they are oriented toward the common good and respect human dignity, science and technology are essential tools to be encouraged."
"However, we cannot deny the serious and unacceptable results of research that does not have the human being as the center of its objectives," the Archbishop Mamberti said, referring to the 7th European Framework Program 2007-2013, which projects funding for human stem cell research.
"A democracy that, instead of serving human life, puts it to a vote and supports those who suppress it, seems to be the prey of falsehood and intolerance," the prelate said.
This behavior, he added, signifies "a strategy solicited by vast technological and industrial interests, turning to politics to obtain juridical protection in support of these interests … considering ethics as an obstacle, instead of an aid to well-being."
Life and family
The archbishop also spoke about demographic decline, mentioning that none of the Western European countries have a birthrate high enough to maintain the population.
"This is, first of all, a problem of individualism and the new generation's deep crisis regarding trust in the future," the Vatican official said.
"The Church is ready to contribute to resolve this pessimism; but the political and economic institutions should have the courage to question a consumerist and hedonistic lifestyle," he added. The prelate also underlined the need to "support life and the family with resolute actions on various levels."
Regarding countries joining the European Union, Archbishop Mamberti underlined that the Holy See "asks for the observance" of the so-called Copenhagen criteria, approved in 1993, which consider the defense of human rights, religious freedom, and protection of minorities.
Archbishop Mamberti added: "If expansion is a policy of security and stability for the EU, the 'costs' this entails for the citizens should not be ignored -- not only in financial terms, even if very relevant, but also cultural terms.
"In other words, a policy of expansion should not endanger the sharing of those principles and values, forged by Christianity, that have made Europe a light of civilization for the entire world.
"Catholics involved in the public field should know that the meaning of their political activities and the future of Europe are at stake."
The prelate added that for Christians working in the European public space, "to be fully coherent with their faith [… they] must take as a priority for their public work the welfare of human life, from conception to natural death, and the natural structure of the family, as a union between a man and a woman, founded on matrimony."
Archbishop Mamberti then spoke about the need for the construction of a "correct laicism" and the "autonomy of temporal realities."
The Vatican official said: "During the last two legislatures of the European Parliament, the positions of the Catholic Church and the Vatican were attacked almost 30 times and unjustly accused of uncalled-for involvement in a European issue."
He then highlighted the dangers of an ideology for the laity, which would mean a "form of intolerance, presented as the quintessence of tolerance." History has shown, the prelate said, that when "neo-pagan ideologies have made the state an absolute, dissolving any form of pluralism, democracies have fallen and the rights of human beings have been violated and destroyed."
"It corresponds in first place to the Holy See, as well as to all Christians," Archbishop Mamberti said, "to remind this continent […] that it cannot betray its Christian values, just as a person cannot betray his reasons to live and have hope, without falling into a dramatic crisis."