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On the path of Isaiah
Catholic Church in Europe: the mask, the image and the reality
Transmitting not the mask, but the image, indeed the reality: that, in substance, is the plea that the Council of the European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), through the mouthpiece of its President, Cardinal Peter Erdö, makes to the media when they inform on the life and thought of the Church in Europe.
It's a plea that is also prompted in the light of a survey on relations between Church and media that was a focal point of discussion at the plenary assembly of the CCEE (a Church organization founded in 1971), which ended at Esztergom in Hungary in recent days. The survey confirms a high and widespread percentage of disinformation and improvisation in the way the media report on the Church's activities.
The assembly expressed no self-pity or resignation in response to the situation presented by the survey. Instead the delegates clearly said that correct information about the Church cannot prefer the mask to the face. It's a question of credibility.
The Catholic Church in Europe feels that the question is fundamental not only, and not so much, for itself, as for the future of the continent, its democracy, its freedom and its responsibility towards the world.
Asking the media to listen to and faithfully report on reality means, in the second place, asking them not to remain silent about, or underestimate, the contribution that the Catholic Church has made and continues to make to European growth.
Secularism ('laicity') in its positive sense, often and rightly recalled in recent times, is a valuable and indispensable intellectual criterion also for those who work in the media, so that they may be able to grasp reality in its totality and offer to the conscience of man fundamental elements for a free judgement. For if Europe is truly to be a common home with solid foundations, it has a need for consciences in the constant search for truth.
Remaining in the field of continental history, the careful observer has numerous proofs to say that, precisely by appealing to conscience, the Catholic Church has believed in the European adventure and has stood at the side of all those who see in the European dream not a flight from complexity and responsibility, but a pursuit of justice, peace and hope: they saw the path of Isaiah.
And that is still, indeed it is increasingly, why enlargement also represents for the Catholic Church a great "dream" that cannot be renounced. In spite of the uncertainties, the fragilities, and even the backsliding, that dream continues to encourage and correct Europe, by declaring in the language of the Gospel that realism is the opposite of scepticism.
Cardinal Erdö's invitation to participate with responsibility in the elections for the renewal of the European Parliament next June is further confirmation of a commitment that can be traced back to the dawn of Europe after a terrible night and that sees unity in diversity as an abiding source of richness.
The plenary at Esztergom was in continuity with previous assemblies: there has never been a time when the Church's communion of thought and guidance has been weakened, or has unravelled.
Especially on what we now call "non-negotiable principles" the Catholic Church in Europe has made her voice heard as "mother and teacher", always seeking - precisely due to this twofold vocation - dialogue with other Christian Churches and with the political institutions.
The European common good, as was underlined at Esztergom by Bishop Adrianus van Luyn, President of COMECE, the Commission of the Episcopates of the European Community created in 1980, has never been an abstract concept and every possible contribution to realize it has been and will be offered by the Catholic Church.
In this historic process we need to stress one date in particular: 1989. The collapse of the Berlin Wall, twenty years ago, has enriched the Church's communion both in feeling and in expression: the sensibility, the hopes, and the courage of the Catholic Churches of Eastern Europe have been increasingly listened to in those of the West. Dialogue has matured a lot; the two lungs of Europe are breathing properly.
The Esztergom assembly was thus another step in this direction. It marks an ecclesial and cultural growth that comes from Europe's Christian roots and makes the path of Isaiah more visible.
director of SIR Europe - (Esztergom - Hungary)
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