VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI granted a rare interview to the creators of a documentary in which he said that he is “convinced” that “there will also be a new springtime for Christianity” in Europe.
The bishops, experts and observers at the Synod on the New Evangelization were treated to a screening of the new documentary at the Oct. 15 afternoon session.
“[T]he desire for God … is profoundly inscribed into each human soul and cannot disappear. Certainly we can forget God for a time … but God never disappears,” Pope Benedict said on screen, though he was not in the audience. “This restlessness … is an expression of the hope that man may, ever and anew … start to journey towards this God.”
The movie, entitled Bells of Europe: A Journey Into the Faith in Europe, considers Christianity, European culture and the future of the continent. In addition to the Pope, it features interviews with leaders of the other main Christian denominations in Europe, as well as leaders in politics and culture.
To emphasize Europe’s common Christian roots, the reflections are bound together by the sound of bells ringing out from around the continent, the casting of a bell in the ancient foundry of Agnone, and the music of Estonian composer Arvo Part.
Based on an idea by Jesuit Father Germano Marani, the film was produced by the Vatican Television Center.
In his interview, the Pope expressed several reasons for hope for the future of Christianity in Europe.
“The Gospel … is true and can therefore never wear out. In each period of history, it reveals new dimensions … as it responds to the needs of the hearts and minds of human beings, who can walk in this truth and so discover themselves,” the Pope said. “It is for this reason, therefore, that I am convinced there will also be a new springtime for Christianity.”
Another reason he offered is that “faith in Jesus Christ is quite simply true; and the truth never ages.”
No ideology can prevail against Christianity in the long run, he stated.
“Ideologies have their days numbered. They appear powerful and irresistible, but, after a certain period, they wear out and lose their energy because they lack profound truth. They are particles of truth, but, in the end, they are consumed.”
Young people are another source for the Pope’s hope.
“Young people have seen much — the proposals of the various ideologies and of consumerism — and they have become aware of the emptiness and insufficiency of those things.
“Thus, among the new generations, we are seeing the reawakening of this restlessness, and they, too, begin their journey making new discoveries of the beauty of Christianity; not a cut-price or watered-down version, but Christianity in all its radicalism and profundity. That is Christianity. It is true, and the truth always has a future,” the Pope said.
The future will not be easy, especially in Europe, since it suffers from a spiritual bipolarism, he explained.
“n Europe today, we see two souls,” he said toward the end of the interview.
“One is abstract anti-historical reason, which seeks to dominate all else because it considers itself above all cultures … and intends to liberate itself from all traditions and cultural values in favor of an abstract rationality. Yet we cannot live like that, and, moreover, even ‘pure reason’ is conditioned by a certain historical context, and only in that context can it exist.”
The other soul is Europe’s Christian one. This soul is “open to all that is reasonable, a soul which itself created the audaciousness of reason and the freedom of critical reasoning, but which remains anchored to the roots from which this Europe was born, the roots which created the continent's fundamental values and great institutions, in the vision of the Christian faith,” the Pope said.
“The challenge for Europe,” he asserted, is for its Christian soul “to find a shared expression in ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches” and then “encounter this abstract reason. In other words, it must accept and maintain the freedom of reason to criticize everything it can do and has done, but to practice this and give it concrete form on the foundations and in the context of the great values that Christianity has given us.”
“Only by blending these elements can Europe have weight in the intercultural dialogue of mankind today and tomorrow. Only when reason has a historical and moral identity can it speak to others” and “find a fundamental unity in the values that open the way to the future, to a new humanism,” Benedict said.
“This must be our aim,” the Pope said. “For us, this humanism arises directly from the view of man created in the image and likeness of God.”