Benedict XVI calls on Europe to re-establish Christian roots - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
August 16, 2005

Find books now:

Benedict XVI calls on Europe to re-establish Christian roots

-16/08/05

In a first full-length broadcast interview over the weekend, Pope Benedict XVI called for a renewal of Europe's Christian roots, said that the Church's structural problems should not be allowed to overcome "the joy of faith", and proclaimed that "Christianity is full of undiscovered dimensions". He also affirmed a general commitment to ecumenism.

In an exchange which might be regarded as rather deferential in the more robust interview culture of the British media, the pontiff, speaking to Fr Eberhard von Gemmingen, head of Vatican Radio's German service, declared that "many heavy burdens exist in our modern western society, driving us away from Christianity."

Questioning what he called "a kind of self-pity and self-condemnation" in European culture, the Pope said that extrapolating the continent's civilization and technology from its "deep roots" in Christianity, and attaching them to less secure moorings, was a mistake.

Referring to global challenges facing the West, he went on: "I believe civilization,with all its dangers and hopes, can only be tamed and led back to greatness if it recognises again the sources of its power." The pontiff has a long-standing interest in Europe.

Although he has talked aout the incompatibility of Christian faith with power and wealth, Pope Benedict's comments will be seen by many as a reassertion of the Church's traditional commitment to Christendom, with its belief in the pre-eminence of Christianity in public institutions. His predecessor similarly argued for a strong affirmation of God and faith in the now sidelined European Constitution.

But more radical Christians, Catholic and Protestant, believe that an 'establishment' role for faith in England, as in Europe as a whole, weakens the subversive energy of the Gospel by priviledging the church and compromising the plurality of public life. They view the distinction between church and state as vital.

However there will be wider agreement with the Pope that consumerism ("what he have and what we buy") cannot be "all", and that reducing faith to a product in a "market of religions" distorts its character.

Speaking in the run-up to World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, Benedict XVI likened the relationship of young people to Christianity with the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, "who thought his father's house was boring" and only later discovered that, compared to hedonism, it was "free and great".

The Pope said that it was a mistake to think of Christianity as "composed of laws and bans" and as "something toilsome and burdensome". Instead, it should be "like having wings", he declared.

But Benedict's critics say that the negative image is one he has himself strengthened through his resolute opposition to birth control, liberation theology, and open debate about gender and sexuality issues.

On ecumenism, the Pope admitted that his visit to Germany will leave little time for discussions with Protestants or other faith communities, and he implied that inter-Catholic exchange was the major task of World Youth Day (WYD).

Nevertheless, he added that the "task of unity permeates the entire nature of the Church", and he noted that WYD celebrations had previously assisted with concrete ecumenical processes, such as the joint Catholic-Lutheran statement on "justification by faith". Benedict has already met the general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

World Catholic News pointed out yesterday that an interview with a pope is a rare event. Pope John Paul II, during the 26 years of his pontificate, only gave a few media interviews. The most famous was the extended 1994 exchange with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, which became the book 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope'.

Benedict XVI's Vatican Radio interview this weekend took place at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

Find books now:

Benedict XVI calls on Europe to re-establish Christian roots

-16/08/05

In a first full-length broadcast interview over the weekend, Pope Benedict XVI called for a renewal of Europe's Christian roots, said that the Church's structural problems should not be allowed to overcome "the joy of faith", and proclaimed that "Christianity is full of undiscovered dimensions". He also affirmed a general commitment to ecumenism.

In an exchange which might be regarded as rather deferential in the more robust interview culture of the British media, the pontiff, speaking to Fr Eberhard von Gemmingen, head of Vatican Radio's German service, declared that "many heavy burdens exist in our modern western society, driving us away from Christianity."

Questioning what he called "a kind of self-pity and self-condemnation" in European culture, the Pope said that extrapolating the continent's civilization and technology from its "deep roots" in Christianity, and attaching them to less secure moorings, was a mistake.

Referring to global challenges facing the West, he went on: "I believe civilization,with all its dangers and hopes, can only be tamed and led back to greatness if it recognises again the sources of its power." The pontiff has a long-standing interest in Europe.

Although he has talked aout the incompatibility of Christian faith with power and wealth, Pope Benedict's comments will be seen by many as a reassertion of the Church's traditional commitment to Christendom, with its belief in the pre-eminence of Christianity in public institutions. His predecessor similarly argued for a strong affirmation of God and faith in the now sidelined European Constitution.

But more radical Christians, Catholic and Protestant, believe that an 'establishment' role for faith in England, as in Europe as a whole, weakens the subversive energy of the Gospel by priviledging the church and compromising the plurality of public life. They view the distinction between church and state as vital.

However there will be wider agreement with the Pope that consumerism ("what he have and what we buy") cannot be "all", and that reducing faith to a product in a "market of religions" distorts its character.

Speaking in the run-up to World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, Benedict XVI likened the relationship of young people to Christianity with the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, "who thought his father's house was boring" and only later discovered that, compared to hedonism, it was "free and great".

The Pope said that it was a mistake to think of Christianity as "composed of laws and bans" and as "something toilsome and burdensome". Instead, it should be "like having wings", he declared.

But Benedict's critics say that the negative image is one he has himself strengthened through his resolute opposition to birth control, liberation theology, and open debate about gender and sexuality issues.

On ecumenism, the Pope admitted that his visit to Germany will leave little time for discussions with Protestants or other faith communities, and he implied that inter-Catholic exchange was the major task of World Youth Day (WYD).

Nevertheless, he added that the "task of unity permeates the entire nature of the Church", and he noted that WYD celebrations had previously assisted with concrete ecumenical processes, such as the joint Catholic-Lutheran statement on "justification by faith". Benedict has already met the general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

World Catholic News pointed out yesterday that an interview with a pope is a rare event. Pope John Paul II, during the 26 years of his pontificate, only gave a few media interviews. The most famous was the extended 1994 exchange with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, which became the book 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope'.

Benedict XVI's Vatican Radio interview this weekend took place at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.