To all members of our International English-Speaking Community of the Parish of Luxembourg Notre-Dame
From tomorrow onwards you will find here a proposal for personal reflection – and maybe an opportunity to exchange some thoughts with your family, relatives and/or some friends (by phone or mail or any other means that allow you to keep the required distance of course!).
It will be posted under the title “Facing Unusual Times”.
It will be made available as a pdf file – if you wish to read it quietly at your pace – and (hopefully!) also as a vocal message – if you had rather listen to it.
Today, I suggest to read – no vocal message available yet, sorry! – an excerpt of Pope Francis’s address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 25th November 2014.
I gave it the title: “Opening to the Transcendent”
How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?
To answer this question, allow me to use an image. One of the most celebrated frescoes of Raphael is found in the Vatican and depicts the so-called “School of Athens”. Plato and Aristotle are in the centre. Plato’s finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say. Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality. This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe’s practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems.
The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements. A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.
Taking as a starting point this opening to the transcendent, I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of the moment. I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth. This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment. This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person.
“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth”
(Ps 123 (124), v. 8)