In our day, marked by the welcoming of migrants and the ‘collaborating with people who think differently,’ many may be shocked at the words of the Angelic Doctor: ‘Man’s relations with foreigners are twofold: peaceful, and hostile’ (I-II, 105, a.3)
Yes, in this article of the Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas explains the Chosen people’s relations with foreigners in detail: ‘Befriend the foreigner, feeding and clothing him’ (Dt 10:18); ‘You shall not violate the rights of the foreigner’ (Dt 24:17); ‘When a foreigner resides with you in your land, do not molest him’ (Lev 19:33).
But it is also very clear that this benevolence was intended for the outsiders who came seeking to integrate, in some manner, with the Chosen people, and become true compatriots. This was true to such an extent, that all of the laws that God had set for practice by the Jews were also binding for the foreigners: ‘You shall have but one rule, for foreigner and native alike. I, the Lord, am your God’ (Lev 24:22); ‘You shall have the same law for the resident foreigner as for the native of the land’ (Num 9:14). ‘There is but one rule for you and for the resident foreigner’ (Num 15:16). ‘You shall have but one law for him who sins inadvertently, whether he be a native Israelite or an foreigner residing with you’ (Num 15:29). ‘Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death. The whole community shall stone him; foreigner and native alike must be put to death for blaspheming the Lord’s name’ (Lev 24:16).
Often the reason why God commands this hospitality becomes clear: He wishes that the true religion be made known to the others, in the desire that He be adored by all peoples, just as he was among the Israelite people: ‘To the foreigner, likewise, who is not of your people Israel, but comes from a distant land to honor you (since men will learn of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, listen from your heavenly dwelling. Do all that the foreigner asks of you, that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, may fear you as do your people Israel’ (1Kings 8:41-44).
But the compassionate attitude God ordained did not dispense a special vigilance in relation to the newcomers, for they could also be the cause of ruin and diminishment of religious fervor among the people. ‘Lodge a stranger with you, and he will subvert your course, and make a stranger of you to your own household’ (Sir 11:34). The Lord said to Moses, ‘Soon you will be at rest with your fathers, and then this people will take to rendering wanton worship to the strange gods among whom they will live in the land they are about to enter. They will forsake me and break the covenant which I have made with them’ (Dt 31:16).
This was certainly realistic, for the careless openness to foreigners could give rise to untold dangers, ‘since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people’ (cf. Summa Theologica I-II, 105, a.3). Consequently, only some immigrants were admitted with benevolence: specifically, those from nations having affinity with the Hebrews. On the other hand, the nations who had treated the Israelites as enemies were never admitted into their conviviality (cf. Suma Theologica I-II, 105, a.3).
We cannot close ourselves to those in need; we are obliged to extend a charitable hand to them, by our spiritual works of mercy, and, within our particular means, corporal works of mercy as well. But we have to be mindful and careful to avoid straying from our own faith to attend to those who are not in agreement with it. We must not put the light of our holy religion ‘under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house’ (Mt 5:15).
The Christian past of our peoples is a precious gift that we may not allow to fall prey to indifferentism or a false respect for non-Catholics. In this calamitous 21st century, then, the affirmations of the Popes regarding the glorious Christian past of the Western world should be more appreciated than ever, and are certainly worth remembering.
Enter the various parts of our study
II – Catholics have the sacred duty to preserve their culture and their identity
III – Assimilate the culture of the immigrants: to evangelize them or to dilute our beliefs?
IV – The Church is truly a Mother of all peoples; but what does a good mother want for her children?
V – A new cultural synthesis without the Faith at its base puts Christian customs at risk
I – European civilization and culture has its roots in the Christian faith, differently from all other cultures
I give thanks, in particular, to the heads of state and the civil authorities for the support that they have given to the initiative, that has certainly favored a greater approximation of the nations of the continent on the basis of those fundamental values of culture and European civilization, that have their roots in the Christian faith […] It has been a pilgrimage to the beginnings of Christianity and of the Church in Septentrional Europe. This beginning is linked, from the 9th century, with the mission of Saint Oscar (Ansgar), who came from Gaul, traveling north with the evangelical message. His work prepared the successive phases of evangelization, first in Denmark and then in the other parts of Scandinavia. This process is connected with the figures of the holy kings and bishops who, in the heart of the nations of Northern Europe, were converted into pillars of the Church. Their remembrance, full of veneration, unites the societies of these countries. Also to the memory of Saint Oscar is united that of Saint Olaf, Patron of Norway; Saint Thorlak Thorhallsson, bishop of Skalholt, Iceland, who made untiring efforts to strengthen the Christian life of his people; Saint Henry, Patron of Finland, a valiant man of great faith in the active presence of God in the life of men; Saint Canute, King of Denmark, and Niels Steensen (Steno), beatified recently; the Holy King Eric IX, Patron of Sweden and symbol of the national unity of the country; and, lastly, Saint Bridget, who came to Rome, where she worked vigorously for the unity of the Church, and whose memory is linked to the sanctuary of Vadstena, in Sweden. During the pilgrimage through the Scandinavian countries, one essential point of reference were the old cathedrals of Trondheim, Norway; of Turku, the first capital of Finland; of Roskilde, Denmark; and finally of Upsala, Sweden. There reposes the Catholic Saint Eric […]. In this series we must also include Thingvellir, Iceland, the place in which the decision to introduce Christianity in the Nordic island was made […]. The memory of the saints, men and women, who lived in those lands and gave testimony there of their faith in Christ at the beginnings of the evangelization of the respective circumscriptions, should incite the Christians of today to spiritual renewal […]. (John Paul II. General audience, no. 1-4, June 14, 1989)
Europe has been widely and profoundly permeated by Christianity. […] The Church’s concern for Europe is born of her very nature and mission. Down the centuries the Church has been closely linked to our continent, so that Europe’s spiritual face gradually took shape thanks to the efforts of great missionaries, the witness of saints and martyrs, and the tireless efforts of monks and nuns, men and women religious and pastors. From the biblical conception of man Europe drew the best of its humanistic culture, found inspiration for its artistic and intellectual creations, created systems of law and, not least, advanced the dignity of the person as a subject of inalienable rights. The Church, as the bearer of the Gospel, thus helped to spread and consolidate those values which have made European culture universal. With all this in mind, the Church of today, with a renewed sense of responsibility, is conscious of the urgency of not squandering this precious patrimony and of helping Europe to build herself by revitalizing her original Christian roots. (John Paul II. Ecclesia in Europa, no. 24, June 28, 2003)
I would like to speak with you this evening of the origins of western theology and the roots of European culture. I began by recalling that the place in which we are gathered is in a certain way emblematic. It is in fact a placed tied to monastic culture, insofar as young monks came to live here in order to learn to understand their vocation more deeply and to be more faithful to their mission. We are in a place that is associated with the culture of monasticism. Does this still have something to say to us today, or are we merely encountering the world of the past? In order to answer this question, we must consider for a moment the nature of Western monasticism itself. What was it about? From the perspective of monasticism’s historical influence, we could say that, amid the great cultural upheaval resulting from migrations of peoples and the emerging new political configurations, the monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived, and where at the same time a new culture slowly took shape out of the old. […] Monasticism involves not only a culture of the word, but also a culture of work, without which the emergence of Europe, its ethos and its influence on the world would be unthinkable. (Benedict XVI. Meeting with representatives of World culture in the Collège des Bernardins, Paris, September 12, 2008)
The building of Europe as a common home can only be successful if this continent is aware of its Christian roots and if the Gospel values, as well as the Christian image of the human being, are the leaven of European civilization also in the future. Faith lived in Christ and active love for one’s neighbour, marked by Christ’s word and life and by the Saints’ example, carry more weight than Western Christian culture. (Benedict XVI. Address to the Ambassador of Austria to the Holy See, February 3, 2011)
Knowledge of the history of Poland will tell us still more: not only was the hierarchical order of the Church decisively inserted into the history of the nation in 1000, but also the history of the nation was in a providential manner rooted in the structure of the Church in Poland, a structure that we owe to the Assembly of Gniezno. This affirmation finds its confirmation in the various periods of the history of Poland, and particularly in the most difficult periods. When national and state structures were lacking, society, for the most part Catholic, found support in the hierarchical order of the Church. And this helped society to overcome the times of the partition of the country and the times of occupation; it helped society to maintain, and even to deepen its understanding of, the awareness of, its own identity. Perhaps certain people from other countries may consider this situation ‘untypical’, but for Poles it has an unmistakable eloquence. It is simply a part of the truth of the history of our own motherland. […] We are well aware that this fact that the Church in Poland is rooted in its catholicity–from the moment of the Baptism and of the Assembly of Gniezno and throughout history–has a particular meaning for the spiritual life of the nation. And it also has a meaning for the nation’s culture, which is marked not only by the tradition of visible links with Rome but also possesses the characteristic of universality proper to Catholicism and the characteristic of openness to everything which in the universal exchange of good things becomes the portion of each of those who take part in it. This affirmation could be confirmed by innumerable instances taken from our history. One of these instances could also be the fact that we are together today, namely that the Polish Episcopate is meeting a Polish Pope. (John Paul II. Address at the 169th Plenary Assembly of the Polish Episcopal Conference, no. 2-3, June 5, 1979)
Saint Adalbert has reminded us of our duty to build a Poland faithful to her roots. We have also been reminded of this by the Jubilee of the Jagiellonian foundation of the University of Krakow and especially of its Theology Faculty. Fidelity to roots does not mean a mechanical copying of the patterns of the past. Fidelity to roots is always creative, ready to descend into the depths, open to new challenges, alert to the ‘signs of the times’. It also expresses itself in a concern for the development of our native culture, in which the Christian element has been present since the beginning. Fidelity to roots means above all the ability to create an organic synthesis of perennial values, confirmed so often in history, and the challenge of today’s world, faith and culture, the Gospel and life. My wish for my countrymen and for Poland is that she will be able in this precise way to be faithful to herself and to the roots from which she has grown. A Poland faithful to her roots. A Europe faithful to its roots. In this context historic importance attaches to the fact that the Presidents of the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland have taken part in the celebrations for Saint Adalbert, and for this I am most grateful to them. (John Paul II. Farewell ceremony address, John Paul II International Airport Kraków-Balice, no. 4, June 10, 1997)
Europe, which during its history has been several times divided, Europe, which towards the end of the first half of the present century was tragically divided by the horrible World War, Europe, which despite its present and long-lasting divisions of regimes, ideologies and economical and political systems, cannot cease to seek its fundamental unity, must turn to Christianity. Despite the different traditions that exist in the territory of Europe between its Eastern part and its Western part, there lives in each of them the same Christianity, which takes its origins from the same Christ, which accepts the same Word of God, which is linked with the same Twelve Apostles. Precisely this lies at the roots of the History of Europe. This forms its spiritual genealogy. (John Paul II. Address at the Polish Episcopal Conference, no. 5, June 5, 1979)
We wish to pray here for this peace of Christ; and if we observe all the present search for greater unity among European peoples, we hope that this will lead also to deeper awareness of the roots – spiritual roots, Christian roots – because, if a common house is to be built, deeper foundations also have to be laid. A superficial foundation is not enough. And that deeper foundation – as we have seen also in our analysis – always means ‘spiritual’. Let us pray that the search for a more united Europe will be based on the spiritual foundation of the Benedictine tradition, of the Christian tradition, the Catholic one, which means universal. Only in the name of this tradition is it possible that now, in this place, today, there should come as Bishop of Rome the son of a people different in language and history, but rooted in the same foundation, in the same spiritual tradition, in the same Christianity, with such a Christian past that he can be among you not just as one of the family, but also as your pastor. (John Paul II. Address to the monks of the Abbey of Monte Cassino, May 18, 1979)
I avail myself of this occasion to reflect with you on the specific contribution which Christians, as men and women of culture and learning, are called to make to the further growth of a true humanism in your Nation, as part of the great family of peoples. The task of the Christian in fact is to spread the light of the Gospel throughout society, and hence also in the world of culture. Through the centuries, Christianity has made an important contribution to the formation of the cultural heritage of the Croatian people. On the threshold of the Third Millennium, therefore, there should be no lack of new and vital energies, ready to give fresh impulse to the promotion and development of the cultural heritage of the Nation, in full fidelity to its Christian roots. (John Paul II. Message to the world of culture and learning, October 3, 1988)
The ‘Good News’ was and continues to be a source of life for Europe. If it is true that Christianity cannot be restricted to any particular culture but converses with each one, to help them all to express their best qualities in every field of knowledge and human action, then the Christian roots of Europe are the main guarantee of its future. Could a tree that had no roots grow and develop? Europe, do not forget your history! (John Paul II. Homily, no. 3, June 28, 2003)
All of Europe has discovered itself around the ‘memory’ of Santiago, in the same centuries in which it was being constructed as a spiritually and homogeneously united continent. For this reason, Goethe himself would insinuate that European consciousness was born on pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage to Santiago was one of the strong elements favoring mutual comprehension among Europeans as diverse as the Latin, Germanic, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Slavonic peoples. The pilgrimage brought together, connected and united amongst themselves those people who, century after century, convinced by the preaching of Christ’s witnesses, embraced the Gospel and, contemporaneously, we could affirm, emerged as peoples and nations.
The history of the European nations’ formation runs alongside its evangelization; to such an extent that the European frontiers coincide with those of the inroads made by the Gospel. After twenty centuries of history, despite the bloody conflicts that the peoples of Europe had to face, and despite the spiritual crises that have marked the life of the continent – to the point of posing, to the consciousness of our times, grave questions as to its future – it ought to be affirmed that the European identity is incomprehensible without Christianity, and it is precisely in it that those common roots are found, from which have matured the civilization of the continent, its culture, its dynamism, its activity, its capacity for constructive expansion in the other continents as well; in a word, all that constitutes its glory. And even in our day, the soul of Europe remains united because, besides its common origin, it has identical Christian and human values. (John Paul II. Address in Santiago de Compostela, no. 2-3, November 9, 1982)
For this reason, I, John Paul, son of the Polish nation, which has ever considered itself European, for its origins, traditions, culture and vital relations; Slavonic among Latins, and Latin among Slavs; I, Successor of Peter in the See of Rome, a Seat that Christ wished to place in Europe and that Europe loves for its efforts toward the spreading of Christianity in the entire world. I, Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church; from Santiago, I cry out to you, old Europe, a cry full of love: ‘Encounter yourself once again. Be yourself.’ Rediscover your origins. Re-enliven your roots. Relive those authentic values that made your history glorious, and your presence, beneficial in other continents. […] Do not be discouraged at the quantitative loss of your grandeur in the world or at the social and cultural crises that now affect you. You can still be a beacon of civilization and a stimulus to progress for the world. The other continents look to you and hope of you the same response as Saint James gave to Christ: ‘I can.’ […] If Europe acts once again, in the specifically religious life, with the fitting knowledge and respect for God, on which are based all law and all justice; if Europe once again opens its doors to Christ and does not fear opening, to his salvific power, the confines of the States, the economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, of civilization and development (cf. Insegnamenti, I (1978) 35), its future will not be dominated by uncertainty and fear; rather, it will open itself to a new season of life, both interior and exterior, beneficial and decisive for the entire world, continuously threatened by the clouds of war and by a possible cyclone of atomic holocaust. (John Paul II. Address in Santiago de Compostela, no. 4-5, November 9, 1982)
Since the presence here on the shores of the Tiber of the Princes of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, and their martyrdom, this unique city has been indissolubly linked with the Church of Christ. Similarly the history and destiny of Europe, its past and its role in the present and in the future, cannot be understood without reference to Christendom and its essential contribution to Western culture. (John Paul II. Address to the 76th Bergedorf Dialogue Meeting, December 17, 1984)
In fact, in the vast cultural areas where the majority do belong to the Church, there is a rupture in the handing on of the faith, intimately linked to the process of abandonment of a popular culture long attached to and impregnated by Christianity. It is important to take into consideration the factors that condition this process of distancing, of weakening, and of obscuring the faith in the transforming cultural milieus where Christians dwell, in order to present some concrete pastoral propositions to respond to the challenges of the new evangelisation. For the cultural habitat, where one lives, influences one’s ways of thinking and of behaving, one’s values and criteria of judgement, and it also raises questions at once difficult and decisive. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Concluding Document of the Plenary Assembly 2004, ‘Where is your God? Responding to the Challenge of Unbelief and Religious Indifference Today’, Introduction, no. 1, March 13, 2004)
There can be no doubt that, in Europe’s complex history, Christianity has been a central and defining element, established on the firm foundation of the classical heritage and the multiple contributions of the various ethnic and cultural streams which have succeeded one another down the centuries. The Christian faith has shaped the culture of the Continent and is inextricably bound up with its history, to the extent that Europe’s history would be incomprehensible without reference to the events of the first evangelization and then the long centuries when Christianity, despite the painful division between East and West, came to be the religion of the European peoples. Even in modern and contemporary times, when religious unity progressively disintegrated as a result both of further divisions between Christians and the gradual detachment of culture from the horizon of faith, the role played by faith has continued to be significant.
The path to the future cannot overlook this fact, and Christians are called to renew their awareness of it, in order to demonstrate faith’s perennial potential. In the building up of Europe, Christians have a duty to make a specific contribution, one which will be all the more valid and effective to the extent that they themselves are renewed in the light of the Gospel. In this way they will carry forward that long history of holiness which has traversed the various regions of Europe in the course of these two millennia, in which the officially recognized Saints are but the towering peaks held up as a model for all. (John Paul II. Apostolic letter Spes Aedificando, issued Motu Proprio, proclaiming Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross co-patronesses of Europe, October 1, 1999)
Certainly it would not be exaggerating to affirm in particular, that through a multitude of deeds, the whole of Europe – from the Atlantic to the Urals – testifies, in the history of each nation, and in that of the entire community, the relationship between culture and Christianity. (John Paul II. Address to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, June 2, 1980)
The history of Europe, and that of each of its peoples, is marked by the Christian faith and the respect for the dignity of man, created in God’s image, and redeemed by Christ’s blood. Personal responsibility, the respect for liberty, the sentiment of the sacredness of life, the high esteem for matrimony and the family were examples of this. The Christian comprehension of man was at the origin of the European tradition of human rights, which has found eco in the modern constitutions and in the declarations of human rights of the European council of the United Nations. In keeping with Christian thought, as I myself have especially highlighted in my last Encyclical Laborem Exercens, man is at the center of social, economic, and state life. The world needs a Europe that once again assumes consciousness of these Christian roots and of its identity and, at the same time, is disposed to configure its own present and future based upon this base. Europe was the first continent that profoundly based itself on Christianity, and experienced an incommensurable spiritual and material flourishing. Would it not be possible even today to draw from the same ideals and roots, and by means of a serious reflection, new motivations and strengths for an ample moral and political renewal of Europe, in such a way that Europe may offer, in a responsible and efficacious manner, that spiritual contribution that corresponds to it in the framework of the present community of peoples? Thus, honorable ladies and gentlemen, assume consciousness, in your reflections, that the spiritual contribution of Europe is that of the Europeans, and its Christian contribution is that of the Christians of Europe. (John Paul II. Address to the participants of a Congress on the Crisis of the West and the Spiritual Mission of Europe, November 12, 1981)
The whole of Europe is wondering about its future, while the collapse of totalitarian systems calls for a profound renewal of politics and is causing a vigorous return of the spiritual aspirations of peoples. Europe is being forced to seek to redefine its identity beyond political systems and military alliances. It is rediscovering itself as a continent of culture, a land watered by the Christian faith of two thousand years. (John Paul II. Address to the members of the Pontifical Council for Culture, no. 8.3, January 12, 1990)
The first evangelization – whose beginning will soon reach the 500-year anniversary – shaped of the historical-cultural identity of your people (cf. Puebla, 412. 445-446); and the Catholic cultural substratum, which bears particularly the imprints of your heart and your intuition, expresses itself in the artistic creation, of which your temples, your traditional paintings, your popular art constitute such a valuable demonstration. It also expresses itself, often with touching characteristics, in the piety brought alive in popular manifestations of devotion. Although it is true that faith transcends all culture, since it manifests a happening originating in God, and not in man, this does not mean that it is on the sidelines of culture. There is an intimate linking between the Gospel and the achievements of humanity. This link is what creates culture. (John Paul II. Meeting with the World of Culture and Business in the Saint Turibius Seminary, no. 5-6, May 15, 1988)
The expansion of Iberian Christendom brought to the new peoples the gift inherent in Europe’s origin and gestation – the Christian faith – with its power of humanity and its capacity of salvation, of dignity and fraternity, of justice and love for the New World. This provoked the extraordinary missionary initiative, in the transparency and incisiveness of the Christian faith, among the diverse indigenous peoples and ethnic groups, cultures and languages. The individuals and peoples of the new American miscegenation were also begotten through the novelty of the Christian faith. And in Our Lady of Guadalupe’s face are symbolized the power and solidity of this first evangelization. (John Paul II. Homily, no. 3, October 12, 1984)
A fact recorded by history is that the first evangelization essentially marked the historic-cultural identity of Latin America (Puebla, 412). Proof of this is that the Catholic faith was not uprooted from the hearts of it peoples, despite the pastoral deficiency produced in the period of independence or in the posterior hostility and persecution. (John Paul II. Homily, no. 5, October 12, 1984)
I arrive in a continent in which the Church has left deep traces, which penetrate deep down in the history and character of each people. I come to this living portion of the Church, the most numerous one, a vital part for the future of the Catholic Church, which amid fine achievements but not without shadows, amid difficulties and sacrifices, bears witness to Christ. And today it desires to answer the challenge of the present moment, by proposing a light of hope for this life and for the next one, through its work of proclaiming the Good News which is summed up in Christ the Saviour, the Son of God and the elder Brother of men. (John Paul II. Address to the President of the Dominican Republic, January 25, 1979)
With the discovery of the New World, Christ’s priests were the tireless companions of the men who founded colonies in those far distant lands. It was these priests who made sure that these colonists would not desert Christian ways nor become proud because of the riches acquired in the new lands. These priests also wished to move forward suitably and readily as missionaries to teach the Gospel to the natives, who previously were entirely ignorant of the Divine Light. And they zealously proclaimed that the natives were to be treated as brothers by the colonists. We must also mention those apostles of the Church who labored for the relief and conversion of those Negroes who were barbarously deported from their own land and sold as slaves in American and European ports. (Pius XII. Apostolic constitution Exsul familia Nazarethana, August 1, 1952)
Equally noble were the vigorous ardent labors of bishops and priests who sought to bring to newcomers the blessings of the true Faith and to introduce them into the social customs of these new countries. They also facilitated the assimilation of the uncultured invaders whom they introduced both to the Christian religion and to a new culture. (Pius XII. Apostolic constitution, Exsul familia Nazarethana, August 1, 1952)
Cardinal Dominique Mamberti
In Europe, Christianity offers an original and irreplaceable ensemble of ideas and concrete experiences, of which it historically is the bearer, and revitalizes the patrimony that has forged the identity of the continent. […] We are called to show that the Christian faith developed in Europe is also a means for the convergence of reason and culture, and to keep them together, in a unity which includes action. Also, and here I conclude, secularization can encourage us to rediscover Christianity in its essence and give witness to it in a world which frequently rejects it. To this world we can and must show that our faith is not a relic of the past, but rather a treasure of the present, and an investment for the future; moreover, it is the best investment, as it is the one that is the most fertile, and that gives fruit for eternity. (Cardinal Mamberti. Address for the Congress ‘Christianity and secularization. Challenges for the Church and for Europe’, organized by the European University of Rome, May 29, 2007)
II – Catholics have the sacred duty to preserve their culture and their identity
Christians today must be formed to live in a world which largely ignores God or which, in religious matters, in place of an exacting and fraternal dialogue, stimulating for all, too often flounders in a debasing indifferent-ism, if it does not remain in a scornful attitude of ‘suspicion’ in the name of the progress it has made in the field of scientific ‘explanations.’ To ‘hold on’ in this world, to offer to all a ‘dialogue of salvation’(Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam) in which each person feels respected in his or her most basic dignity, the dignity of one who is seeking God, we need a catechesis which trains the young people and adults of our communities to remain clear and consistent in their faith, to affirm serenely their Christian and Catholic identity, to ‘see him who is invisible’(Heb 11:27) and to adhere so firmly to the absoluteness of God that they can be witnesses to Him in a materialistic civilization that denies Him. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Catechesi tradendae, no. 57, October 16, 1979)
The Church and Europe are two realities which are intimately united in their being and in their destiny. They have traveled together along the same path for centuries, and they remain marked by the same history. Europe was baptized by Christianity; and the European nations, in their diversity, have given substance to Christian existence. In their encounter they have been mutually enriched by values which have not only become the soul of European civilization, but also the patrimony of all of humanity. If in the course of successive crises European culture has sought to distance itself from the faith and the Church; that which was proclaimed as a desire for emancipation and for autonomy was in reality an interior crisis of the European conscience itself, put to the test and tempted in its inner identity, in its fundamental options and in its historic destiny. Europe could not abandon Christianity as a travel companion that has become a stranger, just as a man cannot abandon his reasons for living and hoping without falling into a dramatic crisis. For this reason, the transformation of the European conscience, stirred toward the most radical negations of the Christian inheritance, are only understandable with essential reference to Christianity. The crises of European man are the crises of Christian man. The crises of the European culture are the crises of the Christian culture. It is most significant to examine the metamorphosis suffered by the European spirit in this last century. Europe is today pervaded with currents, ideologies, and ambitions which would pretend to be foreign to the faith, when they are even not directly opposed to Christianity. But it is interesting to emphasize that, having as a point of departure systems and options that sought to make man and his earthly conquests absolute, the point has been reached today that precisely man himself is questioned, his dignity and intrinsic values, his eternal certainties and thirst for the absolute. What have become of the proclamations of a certain scientific spirit, which promised to open to humanity inestimable possibilities of progress and well-being? Where are the hopes that man, having proclaimed God’s death, would finally take God’s place in the world and in history, beginning a new era in which he would conquer by himself all his own evils? […] In this light, Christianity can discover in the adventure of the European spirit the temptations, the infidelities and the risks which are characteristic of man in his essential relationship with God in Christ. Even more profoundly we can affirm that these trials, these temptations and this result of the European drama do not only challenge Christianity and the Church from without — as a difficulty or obstacle that must be overcome in the task of evangelization — but rather in a true sense they are internal to Christianity and the Church. European atheism is a challenge that is taken into consideration on the horizon of a Christian conscience; it consists more in a rebellion against God or an infidelity to God than or a mere negation of God. Secularism, which Europe has spread throughout the world with the risk of damaging flourishing cultures of the peoples of other continents, has been nourished and is nourished on the biblical concept of creation and the human-cosmos relationship. (John Paul II. Address to the participants of the 5th Symposium of the Episcopal Conference of Europe, no. 3-4, October 5, 1982)
Cardinal Angelo Sodano
The Church and Europe are two realities intimately united in their being and destiny. Together they have journeyed down the centuries and are marked by the same history. In their meeting they have enriched each other with values that are not only the soul of European civilization but also part of the heritage of the whole of humanity. […] Young people of Europe, this is the challenge before you! You must give to the Europe of today the hope that you carry within you. Of course, it is not a question of creating a parallel Europe to the existing one but of showing this Europe that its soul and identity are deeply rooted in Christianity, in order to offer Europe the key to interpreting its specific vocation in the world.
European unity will be lasting and fruitful if it is based on the human and Christian values that pervade its common soul, such as the dignity of the human person, a deep sense of justice and freedom, dedication to work, the spirit of initiative, love of the family, respect for life, tolerance, and a desire for cooperation and peace. (Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Homily of the closing Mass for the European Meeting of Young people, Santiago de Compostela, August 8, 1999)
Thus, it is not only a question of grafting the faith onto these cultures, but also of revitalizing a de-Christianized world whose only Christian references are of a cultural nature. On the threshold of the Third Millennium, the Church throughout the world is faced with new cultural situations, new fields of evangelization. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Towards a pastoral approach to culture, no. 1, May 23, 1999)
The year 1980, which begins today, will recall to us the figure of Saint Benedict, who Paul VI proclaimed Patron of Europe. This year marks the anniversary of fifteen centuries since his birth. Will a simple remembrance be sufficient, just as different anniversaries, even important ones are celebrated? I believe it is not sufficient: this date and this figure have such eloquence that an ordinary celebration would not be enough, but rather it will be necessary to reread and reinterpret the contemporary world in this light. In effect, what does Benedict of Nursia speak of? He speaks of the beginnings of this gigantic work, from which Europe was born. (John Paul II. Homily, no. 3, January 1, 1980)
Saint Benedict, giant of the faith and of civilization, in a society shaken by a tremendous crisis of values and institutions, affirmed with the strength of his formative work the primacy of the spirit, thus defending the personal dignity of man, as a child of God, and the dignity of work, understood as a service to his brethren. Starting with this affirmation of the superior needs of man, Saint Benedict, through the silent and efficacious work of his monks, filled with Christian meaning the life and culture of the European peoples. […] Impelled by the same ideals, and encouraged toward the same ends as the Patriarch of the West, the two great brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, from the East, worked in the history and in the culture of the Slav peoples in the midst of the 9th Century. Having been formed in Constantinople, they brought with them the contribution of the ancient Greek culture and of the tradition of the Oriental Church, which, in this way, was deeply inserted into the religious and civil formation of the peoples who have collaborated in a relevant manner in the construction of modern Europe. Cyril and Methodius, as Benedict, witnesses to different cultures, which in them are ideally found and integrated, founded their civilizing work upon the Gospel and the values that emanate from it. This identical proclamation has been an instrument of reciprocal knowledge and of union between the different peoples of Europe, assuring it of a common spiritual and cultural patrimony. (John Paul II. Address to the pilgrims of Croatia and Slovenia, no. 3-4, March 21, 1981)
[…] the King of the Franks, who established Aachen as the capital of his kingdom, made an essential contribution to the political and cultural foundations of Europe and therefore deserved the nickname Pater Europae (father of Europe) that his contemporaries gave him. The felicitous combination of classical culture and Christian faith with the traditions of various peoples took place in Charlemagne’s empire and developed in various forms down the centuries as the spiritual and cultural legacy of Europe. Even if modern Europe presents in many aspects a new reality, we can nevertheless recognize the highly symbolic value of the historical figure of Charlemagne. […] My special thanks go to those who have put all their efforts at the service of building the common European House on the foundations of the values passed on by the Christian faith as well as on those of Western culture. (John Paul II. Address during the reception of the International Charlemagne Prize, no 2.3, March 24, 2004)
Rightly therefore Saints Cyril and Methodius were at an early date recognized by the family of Slav peoples as the fathers of both their Christianity and their culture. In many of the territories mentioned above, although there had been various missionaries, the majority of the Slav population in the ninth century still retained pagan customs and beliefs. Only in the land cultivated by our Saints, or at least prepared by them for cultivation, did Christianity definitively enter the history of the Slavs during the following century. Their work is an outstanding contribution to the formation of the common Christian roots of Europe, roots which by their strength and vitality are one of the most solid points of reference, which no serious attempt to reconstruct in a new and relevant way the unity of the Continent can ignore. (John Paul II. Encyclical letter Slavorum Apostoli, no. 25, June 2, 1985)
The work of Cyril and Methodius made an eminent contribution to forming the common Christian roots of Europe, those roots which by their depth and vitality have created one of the most solid cultural reference-points, which cannot be ignored in any serious attempt to rebuild in a new and contemporary way the unity of the Continent. The guiding inspiration of the massive work carried out by Cyril and Methodius was the Christian faith. Culture and faith are not only not incompatible, but are related to each other as the fruit is to the tree. (John Paul II. Address during the Meeting with Representatives of the World of Culture, Science and Art in Bulgary, no. 3.4, May 24, 2002)
Saint Augustine. This man of passion and faith, of the highest intelligence and tireless in his pastoral care, a great Saint and Doctor of the Church is often known, at least by hearsay, even by those who ignore Christianity or who are not familiar with it, because he left a very deep mark on the cultural life of the West and on the whole world. Because of his special importance Saint Augustine’s influence was widespread. It could be said on the one hand that all the roads of Latin Christian literature led to Hippo (today Annaba, on the coast of Algeria), the place where he was Bishop from 395 to his death in 430, and, on the other, that from this city of Roman Africa, many other roads of later Christianity and of Western culture itself branched out.
A civilization has seldom encountered such a great spirit who was able to assimilate Christianity’s values and exalt its intrinsic wealth, inventing ideas and forms that were to nourish the future generations. (Benedict XVI. General audience, January 9, 2008)
One can affirm that all the thought of antiquity converges in his work and that currents of thought are derived from it which irrigate the entire doctrinal tradition of the future centuries. (Paul VI. Address to the religious of the Order of Saint Augustine on the inauguration of the Patristic Institute Augustinianum, May 4, 1970: AAS 62, 1970, p.426)
Today, in Subiaco, the representatives of the Episcopates of Europe are together to give witness, in the presence of the bishops of the entire world gathered for the Synod, to what degree Saint Benedict of Nursia is deeply and organically present in the history of Europe, and in particular, how the Churches and societies of our continent are indebted to him, and how in our critical times, they turn their gaze toward the one designated by the Church as their common Patron. (John Paul II. Address to the representatives of the Episcopal Conference in the High Basilica of Subiaco, no. 1, September 20, 1980)
In fact, Europe — considered geographically as a whole — is in a certain way the fruit of the action of two currents of Christian tradition, to which two different, but at the same time complementary, forms of culture must be added: Saint Benedict, who with his influence embraced not only Europe, primarily Western and Central Europe, but through the Benedictine centers, also reached other continents of the world, and is found, then, in the center of the movement that flows from Rome, from the See of the Successors of Saint Peter. On the other hand, the holy brothers of Thessalonica emphasize not only the contribution of the Ancient Greek culture, but also the irradiation of the Church of Constantinople and the Oriental tradition, so deeply rooted in the spirituality and in the culture of so many peoples and nations of the eastern part of the European continent. (John Paul II. Apostolic letter Egregiae virtutis, no. 3, December 31, 1980)
The deep-rooted faith in God has managed to penetrate, by its action throughout the centuries, the idea of life, the criteria for personal and social comportment, the means of expression, and in a word, the culture of each of your regions. And this achievement is not merely an inheritance of the past without potential for the present. A great number of men and women of your lands continue to find the fundamental meaning of their lives in the faith, and for this reason, have recourse to God in all the crucial moments of their lives. A rich popular religiosity translates into the language of the simple the great truths and values of the Gospel, incarnate them in the specific roots of your culture and make the great Christian symbols into identifying characteristics of the collectivity. (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of the provinces of Vallodolid and Valencia on their ad limina visit, no. 3, September 23, 1991)
Also among you there occurs, disgracefully, a worrisome phenomenon of de-Christianization. The serious consequences of this change of mentality and customs are not ignored by your solicitude as Pastors. The first of them is the realization of an ambience ‘in which economic well-being and consumerism….inspire and sustain an existence lived as if there were no God’ (Christifideles laici, 34). Frequently, religious indifference installs itself in the personal and collective conscience, and for many God ceases to be the origin and the goal, the meaning and the final explanation of life. On the other hand, they are not lacking who, because of misinterpreted progressivism, pretend to identify the Church with immobile attitudes of the past. They do not have difficulty tolerating the Church as if it were the remains of an ancient culture, but they consider its message and its word irrelevant, denying it audience and disqualifying it as something already surpassed. […] Faced with this Neopaganism, the Church in Spain must respond with a renewed witness and a decided evangelizing effort which is able to create a new cultural synthesis capable of transforming, with the strength of the Gospel, ‘mankind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life’ (Evangelii nuntiandi, 19). (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of the provinces of Vallodolid and Valencia on their ad limina visit, no. 4.5, September 23. 1991)
The roots of the culture of your country are pervaded with the Christian message. The history of Peru has been forged by the warmth of the faith, which has inspired it, and at the same time imprinted a characteristic mark on the life and the customs of the nation. In the light of faith a new crossbred cultural synthesis was modeled which unites in itself the native american legacy and the European contribution. […] Within the immense task of evangelization to which we are called to as a Church, the evangelization of culture occupies a preferential place (cf. Puebla, 365). It should reach all of man, and all the manifestations of man, reaching the root of his very being, customs and traditions (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 20). […] To evangelize culture is to promote man in his deepest dimension. To achieve this, it is at times necessary to make evident all that which, in the light of the Gospel, is attack the dignity of the person. On the other hand, the faith is the yeast for an authentic culture, for its dynamism promotes the realization of a balanced cultural synthesis, which can only be achieved with the aid of a superior light which the faith bears. The faith offers a response of the wisdom ‘ever ancient and ever new’ which helps man to adapt, with true criteria, the means to the ends, the projects to the ideals, the actions to the moral standards that permit the restoration of the upset balance of values of today. In a word, the faith, far from being and obstacle, is a fertile force for the creation of culture. (John Paul II. Meeting with the world of culture and business at the Saint Turibius Seminary, no. 2-5, 1988)
It has always been a cause of amazement for the researcher of Church History – and for the believer, a confirmation of its divine origin – the fact of the promptness of Christian charity […]. There is also no region today where there is not a name that shines of itself, recalling feats of Christian charity. […] A charity which is always spontaneous, as spontaneous as the springtime which comes forth as the sun becomes warmer – Christ is the Sun of his Church – as spontaneous as is that which is connatural, and is not Christ the life-giving sap? [A charity which is] ever at our side, as if a special motion of the Holy Spirit makes the gaze of the Christian far-reaching to discover misery wherever it may be hiding, and the restless heart, so that there be no misfortune that is not responded to by a work and a group of brethren attentive to alleviate it. In this way, the flowing benefits of charity were born and have grown immensely, giving life to those institutions which are to this day the pride of civilization, such as, for example, hospitals, orphanages, Orders for the ransom of slaves, for the defense of pilgrims, houses for women at risk, associations to visit and console prisoners, and in more recent times, leprosariums, institutions for aiding the poor elderly, the blind, the deaf mute, immigrants, children of prisoners, the mutilated; which are all, together with the names of their founders and associates, among the precious pearls which adorn the Mystical Body of Christ. (Pius XII. Allocution to the delegates of the Italian National Congress of the Societies of Charity, April 22. 1952:AAS 54, 1952, p.468-469)
We indeed are happy to recall those religious orders founded specifically to ransom prisoners. Their members, burning with Christian love, endured great hardships on behalf of their enchained brothers for the purpose of liberating, or at least, of consoling many of them. (Pius XII. Apostolic constitution Exsul familia Nazarethana, no. 7, August 1, 1952)
We wish also to say a few words concerning the unceasing care exercised in behalf of pilgrims by a number of devout associations. Providentially set up during the Middle Ages, these groups flourished throughout the Christian world, and especially here in Rome. Under their influence, innumerable hospices and hospitals for strangers, churches and national societies were established. Many traces of them are found even today. (Pius XII. Apostolic constitution Exsul familia Nazarethana, no. 7, August 1. 1952)
The history of Europe shows how, at different times, there were institutions that created culture, in a fruitful synthesis of Christianity and humanism. It is sufficient to think of the role of the Benedictine monasteries and the Universities which sprung up everywhere in Europe, from Paris to Oxford, from Bologna to Krakow, from Prague to Salamanca. The institution of the family, since it is called in the salvific plan of God to be the original and first institution of education, should always reinforce their presence in these institutions that are creators of true culture. (Address to the participants of the Symposium on the Family Apostolate in Europe, November 26. 1982)
III – Assimilate the culture of the immigrants: to evangelize them or to dilute our beliefs?
Dialogue with non-believers and the pastoral approach to unbelief spring from the twofold mandate given to the Church to announce the Gospel to people and to cultures: ‘go out to all the world and preach the Gospel to every being’ (Mk 16:15), and ‘go teach all nations’ (Mt 28:19). This missionary task belongs to the whole Church without exceptions. It cannot be separated from the whole life of the Church, nor is it a specialized activity to be entrusted to a few experts. The mission is transversal and includes catechism and teaching, liturgy and ordinary pastoral activity in families and parishes, seminaries and universities. […] Without the dynamism which springs from a lived-out faith, any pastoral proposal would remain void of apostolic value. Inviting us to make holiness the primary and indispensable part of every pastoral program, the Holy Father reminds us of the importance of prayer, the Sunday Eucharist, the sacrament of reconciliation, the primacy of grace, listening to and proclaiming the Word. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Final document of the Plenary Assembly 2004. Where is your God? New forms of unbelief and religiosity, II, March 13, 2004)
But the danger remains. Indeed, the worker in the apostolate is under constant fire. The desire to come together as brothers must not lead to a watering down or whittling away of truth. Our dialogue must not weaken our attachment to our faith. Our apostolate must not make vague compromises concerning the principles which regulate and govern the profession of the Christian faith both in theory and in practice. An immoderate desire to make peace and sink differences at all costs (irenism and syncretism) is ultimately nothing more than skepticism about the power and content of the Word of God which we desire to preach. The effective apostle is the man who is completely faithful to Christ’s teaching. He alone can remain unaffected by the errors of the world around him, the man who lives his Christian life to the full. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no 88, August 6, 1964)
Indeed, in the piety of the people of America there are oftentimes many elements at odds with Christianity. These elements occasionally lead to a syncretism constructed on the basis of popular beliefs, or, in some cases, they cause believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious movements. […] The increasing religious indifference leads to the loss of the sense of God and of His holiness, which, in turn, is translated into a loss of a sense of the sacred, of mystery and of the capacity for wonder. These are human dispositions which predispose a person to dialogue and to an encounter with God. Such indifference almost inevitably leads to a false moral autonomy and a secularistic life-style which excludes God. (Synod of Bishops. Lineamenta of the Special assembly for America, no. 18-19, August 1, 1996)
Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith – faith that rests on the power of God. It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 5, December 8, 1975)
In the light of the economy of salvation, the Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in interreligious dialogue. Instead, she feels the need to link the two in the context of her mission ad gentes. These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated or regarded as identical, as though they were interchangeable. […] Dialogue should be conducted and implemented with the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 55, Decmeber 7, 1990)
Here once again the Council proves helpful. It can be said that the entire Decree on Ecumenism is permeated by the spirit of conversion. In the Document, ecumenical dialogue takes on a specific characteristic; it becomes a ‘dialogue of conversion’, and thus, in the words of Pope Paul VI, an authentic ‘dialogue of salvation’. Dialogue cannot take place merely on a horizontal level, being restricted to meetings, exchanges of points of view or even the sharing of gifts proper to each Community. It has also a primarily vertical thrust, directed towards the One who, as the Redeemer of the world and the Lord of history, is himself our Reconciliation. […] With regard to the study of areas of disagreement, the Council requires that the whole body of doctrine be clearly presented. At the same time, it asks that the manner and method of expounding the Catholic faith should not be a hindrance to dialogue with our brothers and sisters. Certainly it is possible to profess one’s faith and to explain its teaching in a way that is correct, fair and understandable, and which at the same time takes into account both the way of thinking and the actual historical experiences of the other party. Full communion of course will have to come about through the acceptance of the whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ’s disciples. Hence all forms of reductionism or facile ‘agreement’ must be absolutely avoided. Serious questions must be resolved, for if not, they will reappear at another time, either in the same terms or in a different guise. (John Paul II. Encyclical Ut unum sint, no. 35-36, May 25, 1995)
Today we can note the many good fruit yielded by ecumenical dialogue. However, we must also recognize that the risk of a false irenism and of indifferentism – totally foreign to the thinking of the Second Vatican Council – demands our vigilance. This indifferentism is caused by the increasingly widespread opinion that truth is not accessible to man; hence it is necessary to limit oneself to finding rules for a praxis that can better the world. And like this, faith becomes substituted by a moralism without deep foundations. The centre of true ecumenism is, on the contrary, the faith in which the human being finds the truth which is revealed in the Word of God. Without faith the entire ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of ‘social contract’ to which to adhere out of common interest, a ‘praxeology’, in order to create a better world. The logic of the Second Vatican Council is quite different: the sincere search for the full unity of all Christians is a dynamic inspired by the Word of God, by the divine Truth who speaks to us in this word. The crucial problem which marks ecumenical dialogue transversally is therefore the question of the structure of revelation – the relationship between Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition in Holy Church and the Ministry of the Successors of the Apostles as a witness of true faith. And in this case the problem of ecclesiology which is part of this problem is implicit: how God’s truth reaches us. Fundamental here is the discernment between Tradition with a capital “T” and traditions. I do not want to go into detail but merely to make an observation. An important step in this discernment was made in the preparation and application of the provisions for groups of the Anglican Communion who wish to enter into full communion with the Church, in the unity of our common and essential divine Tradition, maintaining their own spiritual, liturgical and pastoral traditions which are in conformity with the Catholic faith (cf. Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, art. III). Indeed, a spiritual richness exists in the different Christian denominations which is an expression of the one faith and a gift to share and to seek together in the Tradition of the Church. (Benedict XVI. Address to the participants in the Plenary meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, January 27, 2012)
We cannot, however, forget the transcendence of the Gospel in relation to all human cultures in which the Christian faith has the vocation to root itself and come to fruition according to all its potentialities. However great the respect should be for what is true and holy in the cultural heritage of a people, this attitude does not demand that one should lend an absolute character to this cultural heritage. No one can forget that, from the beginning, the Gospel was a ‘scandal for the Jews and foolishness for the pagans’ (1Cor 1:23). Inculturation which borrows the way of dialogue between religions cannot in any way pledge itself to syncretism. (International Theological Commission. Faith and inculturation, no. 14, December 1987)
Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true. Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine’, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires. (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Homily for the ‘Pro eligendo romano Pontifice’, April 18, 2005)
Islam is currently expanding rapidly, particularly due to migratory movements from countries with rapid demographic growth. Countries with a Christian tradition, where, except in Africa, population growth is slower or even negative, often see the increased presence of Muslims as a social, cultural or even religious challenge. […] True collaboration with Muslims on the level of culture in real reciprocity may foster fruitful relationships in Islamic countries and with Muslim communities established in traditionally Christian countries. Such collaboration does not dispense Christians from bearing witness to their christological and trinitarian faith in relation to other expressions of monotheism. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Towards a pastoral approach to culture, May 23, 1999)
IV – The Church is truly a Mother of all peoples; but what does a good mother want for her children?
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. (2 Tim 4:1-2)
Zeal for missionary activity and the Catholic spirit are one and the same. A principal note of the Church is catholicity; consequently, a man is no true member of the Church unless he is likewise a true member of the entire body of Christian believers and is filled with an ardent desire to see her take root and flourish in every land. (Pius XII. Encyclical Fidei donum, no. 12, April 21, 1957)
Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple. […] Nowadays the call to conversion which missionaries address to non-Christians is put into question or passed over in silence. It is seen as an act of ‘proselytizing’; it is claimed that it is enough to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion, that it is enough to build communities capable of working for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. What is overlooked is that every person has the right to hear the ‘Good News’ of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ, so that each one can live out in its fullness his or her proper calling. This lofty reality is expressed in the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman: ‘If you knew the gift of God,’ and in the unconscious but ardent desire of the woman: ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst’ (Jn 4:10, 15). (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris misio, no. 46, December 7, 1990)
In these times of confusion and disorder, it is not unusual to see Christians, Catholics – even within the secular clergy and cloisters – who constantly have a word of conformity, of conciliation and negotiation on their lips. Very well! I do not hesitate to declare: these men are in error, and do not consider them to be the lesser enemies of the Church. We live in a corrupt and pestilent atmosphere and we must know how to preserve ourselves from it. Let us not allow ourselves to be contaminated by false doctrines, which lose all things under the pretext of saving all. (Pius IX. Address in the Church of Aracoeli, September 17, 1861)
Even on the plea of promoting unity it is not allowed to dissemble one single dogma; for, as the Patriarch of Alexandria warns us, ‘although the desire of peace is a noble and excellent thing, yet we must not for its sake neglect the virtue of loyalty in Christ.’ (Pius XII. Encyclical Orientalis Ecclesiae no. 16, April 9, 1944)
The Church’s commitment to evangelization can never be lacking, since according to his own promise, the presence of the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit will never be absent from her: ‘I am with you always, even until the end of the world’ (Mt 28:20). The relativism and irenicism prevalent today in the area of religion are not valid reasons for failing to respond to the difficult, but awe-inspiring commitment which belongs to the nature of the Church herself and is indeed the Church’s ‘primary task’ (Benedict XVI, Homily at the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, April 25, 2005). ‘Caritas Christi urget nos – the love of Christ impels us’ (2Cor 5:14): the lives of innumerable Catholics bear witness to this truth. Throughout the entire history of the Church, people motivated by the love of Jesus have undertaken initiatives and works of every kind in order to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world and in all sectors of society, as a perennial reminder and invitation to every Christian generation to fulfill with generosity the mandate of Christ. Therefore, as Pope Benedict XVI recalls, ‘the proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and to the entire human race, called as they are to communicate to all God’s love, which was fully manifested in Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of the world’ (Benedict XVI, Address to the participants in the International Conference on the 40th anniversary of Ad gentes, March 11, 2006). The love which comes from God unites us to him and ‘makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all”’ (1Cor 15:28). (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization, no. 13, December 3, 2007)
Anyone who rereads in the New Testament the origins of the Church, follows her history step by step and watches her live and act, sees that she is linked to evangelization in her most intimate being: The Church is born of the evangelizing activity of Jesus and the Twelve. She is the normal, desired, most immediate and most visible fruit of this activity: ‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations’ (Mt 28:19). Now, ‘they accepted what he said and were baptized. That very day about three thousand were added to their number… Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved’ (Acts 2:41, 47). Having been born consequently out of being sent, the Church in her turn is sent by Jesus. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 15, December 8, 1975)
If, as We said, the Church realizes what is God’s will in its regard, it will gain for itself a great store of energy, and in addition will conceive the need for pouring out this energy in the service of all men. It will have a clear awareness of a mission received from God, of a message to be spread far and wide. Here lies the source of our evangelical duty, our mandate to teach all nations, and our apostolic endeavor to strive for the eternal salvation of all men. […] Certainly we must preserve and defend the treasure of truth and grace that we have inherited through Christian tradition.[…] The very nature of the gifts which Christ has given the Church demands that they be extended to others and shared with others. This must be obvious from the words: ‘Going, therefore, teach ye all nations’ (Mt 28:19). Christ’s final command to His apostles. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 64, August 6, 1964)
A necessity lies upon the Church (1Cor 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity. By means of this activity, the Mystical Body of Christ unceasingly gathers and directs its forces toward its own growth (cf. Eph 4:11-16). The members of the Church are impelled to carry on such missionary activity by reason of the love with which they love God and by which they desire to share with all men the spiritual goods of both its life and the life to come. (Vatican Council II. Decree Ad gentes, no. 7, December 7, 1965)
V – A new cultural synthesis without the Faith at its base puts Christian customs at risk
More numerous are the citizens of mission countries and followers of non-Christian religions who settle in other nations for reasons of study or work, or are forced to do so because of the political or economic situations in their native lands. The presence of these brothers and sisters in traditionally Christian countries is a challenge for the ecclesial communities. […] In Christian countries, communities and cultural groups are also forming which call for the mission ad gentes, and the local churches, with the help of personnel from the immigrants’ own countries and of returning missionaries, should respond generously to these situations. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 82, December 7, 1990)
The presence of non-Christian immigrants in countries of ancient Christianity represents a challenge to the Church communities. The phenomenon continues to activate charity in the Church, in terms of welcome and aid for these brothers and sisters in their search for work and housing. Somehow, this action is quite similar to what many missionaries are doing in mission lands. They take care of the sick, the poor, the illiterate. This is the disciple’s way: he responds to the expectations and necessities of the neighbor in need, although the fundamental aim of his mission is the proclamation of Christ and his Gospel. He knows that the proclamation of Jesus is the first act of charity towards the human person, over and above any gesture of solidarity, however generous it may be. There is no true evangelization, in fact, ‘if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed’ (Evangelii nuntiandi, 22). Sometimes, due to an environment dominated by growing religious relativism and indifferentism, it is difficult for the spiritual dimension of charitable undertakings to emerge. Some people fear that doing charity in view of evangelization could expose them to the accusation of proselytism. Proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel of charity constitutes the connective tissue of the mission towards migrants […] Today, the proclamation of the gospel of charity to the vast and diversified world of migrants implies a particular attention to the cultural environment. […] The mission of the Church today is exactly that of giving every human being, regardless of culture or race, the concrete possibility of meeting Christ. I wholeheartedly wish that this possibility be offered to all migrants and for this, I assure my aprayers. (John Paul II. Message for the 87th World Day of Migration, no. 7-9, February 2, 2001)
Your individual Churches are geographically situated in different regions of Spain with their own characteristics and traditions. The diocese of the ecclesiastical province of Valladolid, in the lands of old Castile and León, are churches of ancient Christian tradition, which conserve a good level of religious practice, despite a notable demographic decline, which also is notable in the average age of the clergy. The diocese of the ecclesiastical province of Valencia, in the eastern region, is open to the Mediterranean Ocean, with the exception of Albacete, which belongs to the noble region of La Mancha. These dioceses have deep Christian roots and traditions, although the surge of immigration and the phenomenon of tourism have affected to a certain degree the lives of your people. (John Paul II. Address to the bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Vallodolid and Valencia on their ad limina visit, no. 1, September 23, 1991)
On the other hand, in other regions or nations many vital traditions of piety and popular forms of Christian religion are still conserved; but today this moral and spiritual patrimony runs the risk of being dispersed under the impact of a multiplicity of processes, including secularization and the spread of sects. Only a re-evangelization can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith, and serve to make these traditions a force for authentic freedom. Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations. At this moment the lay faithful, in virtue of their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, are fully part of this work of the Church. Their responsibility, in particular, is to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response-consciously perceived and stated by all in varying degrees-to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, no. 34, December 30, 1988)
The phenomenon of migration also destabilizes schools when the large non-Christian presence is used as an excuse to justify abandoning an explicit teaching of the faith, rather than to seize on this opportunity to propose the faith, as has long been the tradition of Church’s missionary activity. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Final Document of the Plenary assemble, Where is your God, I, 2.5)
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
Catholic schools (cf. EEu 59 and PaG 52) must not renounce their own characteristics and Christian-oriented educational programmes when immigrants’ children of another religion are accepted. Parents wishing to enroll their children should be clearly informed of this. (Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Instruction Egra migrantes carita Christi, no. 62, May 3, 2004)
Particular Churches are thus called for the gospel’s sake to a better welcome for migrants through pastoral initiatives that include meeting them and dialoguing with them as well as helping the faithful to overcome prejudices and biases. In contemporary society, to which migration contributes by making it more and more multiethnic, intercultural and multireligious, Christians are called to face a substantially new and fundamental chapter in the missionary task: that of being missionary in countries of long Christian tradition (cf. PaG 65 and 68). With great respect and attention for the migrants’ traditions and culture, we Christians are called to bear witness to the gospel of love and peace in our dealings with them and also to proclaim the Word of God explicitly to them so that the blessing of the Lord, promised to Abraham and his descendants for ever, may reach them. (Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Instruction Egra migrantes carita Christi, no. 100, May 3, 2004)
Recent times have witnessed a growing increase in the presence of immigrants of other religions in traditionally Christian countries. Various pronouncements by the Magisterium, and in particular the encyclical Redemptoris Missio as also the Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, provide clear guidance on this question. […] In the case of non-Christian immigrants, the Church is also concerned with their human development and with the witness of Christian charity, which itself has an evangelizing value that may open hearts for the explicit proclamation of the gospel when this is done with due Christian prudence and full respect for the freedom of the other. […] The Church is thus called upon to open a dialogue with these immigrants, and this ‘dialogue should be conducted and implemented in the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation’ (RMi 55; cf. also PaG 68). This requires Catholic communities receiving immigrants to appreciate their own identity even more, prove their loyalty to Christ, know the contents of the faith well, rediscover their missionary calling and thus commit themselves to bear witness for Jesus the Lord and His gospel. (Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Instruction Egra migrantes carita Christi, no. 59-60, May 3, 2004)
Faithful to his task in the service of the Gospel, the Church continues to approach people of all nationalities to bring them the good news of salvation. With this present Message, on the occasion of the World Day of Migration, I wish to reflect on the evangelizing mission of the Church with respect to the vast and complex phenomenon of emigration and mobility. […] The term ‘migrant’ is intended first of all to refer to refugees and exiles in search of freedom and security outside the confines of their own country. However, it also refers to young people who study abroad and all those who leave their own country to look for better conditions of life elsewhere. . The II Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Decree Christus Dominus, called for a ‘special concern … for those among the faithful who, on account of their way or condition of life, cannot sufficiently make use of the common and ordinary pastoral service of parish priests or are totally deprived of it. Among them are very many migrants, exiles and refugees’ (no. 18). […] Although in varying forms and degrees, mobility has thus become a general characteristic of mankind. It directly involves many persons and reaches others indirectly. The vastness and complexity of the phenomenon calls for a profound analysis of the structural changes that have taken place, namely the globalization of economics and of social life. The convergence of races, civilizations and cultures within one and the same juridical and social order, poses an urgent problem of cohabitation. […] We are witnessing a profound change in the way of The migration phenomenon is in continuous expansion, and this poses questions and challenges to the pastoral action of the Church community thinking and living, which cannot but present ambiguous aspects together with the positive elements. […] In this climate, people may be induced to deepen their own convictions, but also to indulge in superficial relativism. […] Through her own pastoral activity, the Church tries her best not let migrants lack the light and the support of the Gospel. (John Paul II. Message for the 87th World day of Migration, February 2, 2001)
The émigré Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of every refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil. (Pius XII. Apostolic constitution Exsul familia Nazarethana, August 1, 1952)
Indeed, there never has been a period during which the Church has not been active in behalf of migrants, exiles and refugees. […] It is well to begin this survey by mentioning the fifty volumes preserved in the Vatican Archives: Holy See’s Care in behalf of the French. Truly they constitute a magnificent proof of the never-ending devotion of the Roman Pontiffs to the hapless persons banished from their country by revolution or war. These volumes reveal the fatherly care taken of the French by our predecessors Pius VI and Pius VII. Driven from their native land, many of these émigrés were received with open arms in the Papal State, and particularly in Rome, while others took refuge in other countries. (Pius XII. Apostolic constitution Exsul familia Nazarethana, August 1, 1952)
Nor can We fail to mention a duty which in these recent times is ever increasing in importance: the assistance for Mexicans who have emigrated to other countries, who, torn away from their country and their traditions, more easily become prey to the insidious propaganda of the emissaries seeking to induce them to apostatize from their Faith. (Pius XI. Apostolic letter to the Mexican episcopate about the religious situation Firmissiman Constantiam, March 28, 1937)
In the current social and political context, however, even before the right to migrate, there is need to reaffirm the right not to emigrate, that is, to remain in one’s homeland; as Blessed John Paul II stated: ‘It is a basic human right to live in one’s own country’. (Benedict XVI. Message for the World day of migrants and refugees, October 12, 2012)
States have the right to regulate migration flows and to defend their own frontiers, always guaranteeing the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person. (Benedict XVI. Message for the 97th World day of migrants and refugees, One human family, September 27, 2010)