To announce the Gosepl in Europe. Open issues and prospects
by Carmelo Dotolo

What type of Christian announcement is possible in today’s Europe?
The issue, first of all, calls for a twofold clarification: the reading of the Weltanschauungen, which has characterized today’s European reality; the shape Christianity has to take so that the Gospel of the Kingdom may contribute to the progress of cultural and religious identity in welcoming differences. The very history of the relationship between Christianity and European culture is a witness of how decisive may be to grasp the interaction between Christian values and processes of social and individual building up. This will help to put in to evidence the negative aspects of the process as well as to discern the positive dimension of experiences and traditions which favoured a dynamics of liberation and humanization in contemporary history.

Socio-cultural context
1. Europe is a complex idea, which is the confluence of a rapport at times friendly, often conflictual, between the religious (Christian) dimension of life and the search for cultural autonomy. We could well say that in this nexus lies the specificity of the European adventure of humanity: it is centered in affirming the autonomy of the reality and liberty of the subject, alongside the awareness of the potential of religion as interpretation of life. Such a process is part of the dynamics of secularization and of the process of laicizing which recalls the novelty of the Biblical-Christian religion.
From this dialogue, which has not been successful all the times, emerges the structural complexity of the European cultural history. Along the line, we can find the affirmation of democracy, of the proclamation of men’s rights and the ‘Christian’ ideas of the French Revolution but, side by side, also the devastating violence of religious wars and the cultural and political strives, apart from the fight against any form or attempt of institutional interference on the freedom of the individual.

If we wish to summarize we can pinpoint the following traits

  1. the affirmation of the subject as a determining reference point up to the extremes of individualism
  2. the preferential choice of democracy as a style of organizing society, without stopping the ideological arrogance of different forms of totalitarianism.
  3. the presence of a technocratic logic as a strategy to transform society and improve quality of life.
  4. The emerging of religious forms aiming at the ‘human-yet too human’ of well-being and tranquility.

At the same time, within this perspective, it appears a dominating paradox, which was formulated by E. Böckenförde. He stated that “modern society is not living only by values which were not produced by it, but, on the contrary, destroys those values upon which it depends unconditionally. This is due to the fact that they constitute its presupposition.” (1) .

2. On the front of Christianity, apart from undeniable merits, history of its own presence has taken refuge behind a rather flattering idea, which on the long run may end up being destabilizing: it is the idea of self-understanding as a civil religion translated, in fact, into the concept of Christendom.     

Its rather uncertain and wavering destiny along with its decisive failure, sealed by the ecclesial separation caused by the Reformation, had never been perceived in depth as a need for rethinking Christian identity and the evangelization processes. On the contrary, in its being latently (and at times patently) opposed to modernity and particularly to the value of secularization, it turned upside down. As a result, society leaves aside religious principles and political and cultural emancipation becomes the password.
It has to be clarified, anyway, that “opposition to modernity does not emerge from a rigid and mean attachment to undeserved privileges. It has, as its origin, an interpretation of the role of faith in the world, which was characterized by such greatness that its failure appeared to be a tragic anticipation of exile.” (2)

3 What are the issues which are interacting within the complexity of the life forms in Europe? Without entering into the complexity of the interpretation conflict, on the horizon of post or late-modernity, we can single out the sign of an epoch-making shift. It is a process which is disenchanted towards some ideologies which have deceived history up to the violent degenerations which marked the excesses in the expected process of humanization of the world.
“We find ourselves – writes John Paul II - before a widespread existential fragmentation. A feeling of loneliness prevails; divisions and conflicts are on the rise. Among other symptoms of this state of affairs, Europe is presently witnessing the grave phenomenon of family crises and the weakening of the very concept of the family, the continuation or resurfacing of ethnic conflicts, the re-emergence of racism, interreligious tensions, a selfishness that closes individuals and groups in upon themselves, a growing overall lack of concern for ethics and an obsessive concern for personal interests and privileges.” (Ecclesia in Europa, 8). 
It is not a matter of giving way to a pessimist or tragic vision of history leading to bewilderment. What matters, rather, is the perception that what pertains to post-modern critique is nothing else but the charge of unfinishedness of those values preached by modernity: freedom, equality, justice and the effort of building a world which may be qualitatively attentive to man’s universal rights. Post-modernity feels the discomfort caused by this vacuum and probably the weakness of singling out constructive paths.
It is not by chance that the beneficial effects produced by the globalisation processes, through quick communication and multiple exchange of information,  carry along also a time marked by new types of poverty, violence and fundamentalisms created by a sort of homogenization.

Within this frame, we have to underline an exclusive concentration on human resources, which appears as an attempt for an “anthropology without God and without Christ”( Ecclesia in Europa, 9).

In the end, on one side, the explanation of the world is given without referring to the hypothesis which is God. This implies giving up the perspectives of creation and revelation in favour of scientific and technical processes, which are exclusive of man. On the other side, God’s absence does not seem to create any uneasiness nor to represent any problem. It appears to confirm that phenomenon of religious indifference identify themselves as post-atheistic.(3) Its peculiarity lies in a type of crisis which facilitates the process of going back to religion. Nevertheless, it would be superficial not to spot, in the nostalgia for the Absolute and in the thirst for truth and authentic values, a claim for a deeper reading of the present search of the European man.

(all text is available in pdf )
1. R. A. SIEBENROCK, Europa: un tentativo di definizione, in Concilium 50 (2004) 32.
2. C. DUQUOC, Cristianesimo, memoria per il futuro, Brescia 2002, 99.
3. Cf. Y. LEDURE, Dall’ateismo all’indifferenza religiosa: il nuovo statuto del fatto religioso, in F. LENOIR – Y. TARDAN-MASQUELLIER (edd.), La Religione VI. Linguaggio ed esperienze religiose. Le nuove religioni, Torino 2001, 355-368.