Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò said this last Sunday when he addressed a formation meeting for pastoral workers held in Fatima.
In his inaugural lecture on the subject "Human Mobility and Evangelization: Challenges of a New Millennium," the prelate stressed how the European continent is "marked by a profound movement of de-Christianization" and at the same time witnessing a great influx of migrants of many religions.
"The missionary path that we intend to follow in this third millennium must be marked by evangelization and by giving a witness of charity," the archbishop said. "Let's not forget that Christian charity has a great evangelizing force to the degree in which the love of God is shown among men. It consists of availability to one's neighbor in the name of Jesus Christ."
"Hence, the Church is called to live in love, to reveal to the world the love of God and to infect the world with the works of love," the 72-year-old prelate stated. Migrants, in fact, expect from the universal Church "direction and an answer to the great questions on Christian faith, comfort and human help capable of giving meaning and hope to their existence."
Pastoral ministers in this field "are witness of the love of God in the reception of migrants," he added.
Europe in Crisis
Archbishop Vegliò then turned to the situation in Europe, saying that on this continent, there are "worrying signs" of "dismay and confusion," also because of the migration phenomenon.
"First among these is the excessive quest for man's autonomy in encountering God," he said. "The human person, in fact, always tries to concentrate his scientific, technical, cultural and political activity in his own hands."
"The universe also is left to man as sole master, who manipulates it for his pleasure, with the risk of creating irreparable damages to the whole eco-system, but also to the complex world of interpersonal relations and even to the search for values and of the meaning of existence," the prelate reflected.
A second element to consider, he said, regards "the ethical changes that are happening in contemporary society, with particular reference to the disintegration of the family, to the reduced appreciation of marriage, to recourse to abortion, to the use and consumption of sexuality as commercial usefulness without love, to the lack of protection of nascent life, to contempt for the elderly and, in general, of persons with disabilities."
Archbishop Vegliò opined that European immigration policy is in a "critical phase," and he stressed the need for coordination between nations, while noting the "difficulty of individual states to cede some prerogatives in this field."
The prelate referred to quotas that make it impossible for immigrants to enter countries legally, and he spoke of the problem of human trafficking, which particularly victimizes girls and children, and the "disgraceful development of organ trafficking," as well as "episodes of nasty intolerance."
"Let us pray so that respect for every person will grow everywhere, together with the responsible awareness that only in the mutual acceptance of all is it possible to build a world marked by genuine justice and true peace," said the prelate.
The lines that mark Europe's face today "are those of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism, which bear with them different forms of religious membership," he continued.
The archbishop acknowledged that dialogue is not easy, particularly since terms such as justice, truth, dignity and human rights mean different things to different people.
But, he affirmed, "on the day in which a civilization opens itself to other cultures, it brings, in fact, the benefit of growth and reinforcement."
"On the contrary," the prelate said, "weakness and decline begin precisely when [a civilization] does not accept dialogue, mutual encounter and exchange, in the dynamism of mutual giving and receiving."
Pluralism, said Archbishop Vegliò is "one of the categories that give expression to human development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means for a more satisfying existence from the intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual point of view."
The Church "aware of past tragedies" that have "overwhelmed the European continent," "knows that the full integration of every minority is essential to maintain civil harmony and democracy," concluded the archbishop. "On the foundation of the Christian faith, [the Church] intends to contribute to the building of a Europe with a more human face, in which human rights and the basic values of peace, of justice, of liberty, of tolerance, of participation and of solidarity are protected."