Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, a spiritual leader who represents Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has urged young Christians to resist secularisation in Europe in a message to an ecumenical meeting that was greeted by global and regional leaders - writes Jonathan Luxmoore.
"After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe no longer recognises the place for Christianity that history dedicated to it - it is as if Christianity were being expelled from the history of Europe," said Bartholomeos I, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The Patriarch made his appeal in a message sent to a five-day European Youth Meeting, organised by France's ecumenical Taizé Community in Poznan, Poland.
"We wish to recall here that the identity of Europe is primarily Christian and cannot be considered without this legacy," he said in his message to the 29 December-2 January gathering.
"The secularisation of Europe here takes the form of a rejection of the God of history. Nonetheless, the mobilisation of Christians throughout Europe is an important initiative recalling the Christian roots of this continent, its identity and its values."
Bartholomeos noted the emergence of "golden calves" marked by a tendency to sacrifice "justice, equality and freedom on the altar of consumerism". He said Europe should remember the part played by churches in its recent history, at a time when secularisation was denying "the sacredness of the world, breaking the link that exists between God, man and creation".
The Patriarch said, "Europe has just commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event not possible without the mobilisation of Christians.
"From the non-violent demonstrations organised by the Protestant churches of Leipzig; to international efforts by the Pope of Rome, John Paul II, who kept on crying out 'Do not fear'; through the mobilisation of Orthodox churches inside and outside the Soviet bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall is not only the end of a historical sequence or a purely political event; its greatness is ecumenical."
A Taizé Community statement said that more than 30,000 young Europeans turned out for [the] meeting, the 32nd since 1978. They were accommodated at 150 Roman Catholic parishes in Poland's Wielkopolska region.
Taizé's German prior, Brother Alois Loser, urged participants, who were most numerous from Poland, Germany, France and Ukraine, to show solidarity with persecuted Christians in China. There the Taizé Community is distributing one million Bibles, he said. He also called on participants to work for "changes" in social structures as well as for greater justice in the world's economic and financial system.
The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in his message to the gathering said humanity had been "defaced and injured by false ideas of wealth, by false ideas of security, by false ideas of freedom".
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I, for his part, said Europe's future will depend on young people's readiness to promote "justice, Christian morality and the idea of the common good".
At the same time, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the meeting's emphasis on social issues and called for "collective action to change the world for the better".
The Poznan meeting was the fourth such Taizé gathering organised in predominantly Catholic Poland, and will be followed in December by a meeting in Rotterdam.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]