VATICAN CITY—Christianity is the remedy for Europe's ills, but the Church must be united and creative in getting its message out, said members of the Synod of Bishops for Europe as they concluded a series of addresses that marked the synod's first week.
Part of the problem, said several bishops during the first week of the Oct. 1-23 synod, is that Church members seem too sad and defeatist to be effective witnesses of Christian hope. Synod members began meeting in small groups Oct. 12 to discuss ways to improve Church teaching and preaching, liturgy, and charitable activity.
Violence and lingering hatred in the Balkans, strained ecumenical relations, “the crisis of authority” in the Church, the declining number of vocations to religious life, and the crisis of the family were cited as problems calling for immediate action.
Other bishops focused on signs of hope for the Church in Europe, including the growth of lay movements, growing interest in spirituality, the flourishing of faith and of vocations in Eastern Europe, and the power of the Gospel message.
Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Mechelen-Brussels told the synod, “In Western Europe, we live in a culture as vast as a garden, where poisonous plants grow: the unchecked desire of consumerism, hedonism, pride.
“But every poisonous plant contains its antidote.”
A Spanish cardinal told the synod Oct. 11, “The renewal of Christian life in its proper sources — faith in the Word of God, celebration of the sacraments and the service of charity — will bring the divine and human hope which Europe needs.”
In his formal presentation to the participants, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid reviewed the content of the 188 speeches delivered Oct. 1-9 and outlined questions for the small groups to discuss.
According to a one-page summary published by the Vatican, Cardinal Rouco said four points came up repeatedly in the speeches:
1. “The urgency for our churches to proclaim and clearly make known Jesus Christ, his personal presence and work, the source of hope which Europe needs.
2. “The need to propose and formulate the new evangelization of Europe as a lived and visible experience of Jesus Christ, who is alive in his Church.”
3. The need “to carry out an ecclesial examination of conscience,” looking at what is happening within the Church and in European society.
4. The need to find the strength for conversion and for the new evangelization of Europe in the Holy Year 2000.
The summary, said the cardinal's report, “tackles the examination of conscience by describing the most outstanding features of human reality in Europe today and of the situation of the Church in Europe.”
“Various problematic situations in the life of the Church are presented and, at the same time, this reality is seen as an appeal which the Holy Spirit launches to the Church in our time,” the summary said.
Polish Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin, speaking at an Oct. 11 press conference, said the synod is working out of “a vision of the Church in dialogue with the world.”
“This does not exclude what is pessimistic and painful,” he said, but it also means maintaining hope and looking for what is good in modern society.
“It is our duty to be open to Europe, to accept its positive values and to bring our values to Europe,” the archbishop said.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, the Synod's president delegate, evaluated the synod's progress for Vatican Radio. He emphasized that the proceedings can be summarized by its theme: “Jesus Christ in the Church: The Hope for Europe.”
Cardinal Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said: “From East to West there [are] people who insist on [merely] describing the situation. It was obvious — we needed to know more about the experience lived in the different churches. But we have also projected ourselves into the future, and we have now arrived at the key moment” when practical solutions must be proposed.