Cardinal Parolin: Without Its Christian Roots, Europe Won’t Help the World

The Vatican secretary of state spoke during a visit to the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino.

‘Pacis Nuntius,’ the 1964 apostolic letter by which Blessed Paul VI declared St. Benedict a patron of Europe, displayed at Montecassino abbey.
‘Pacis Nuntius,’ the 1964 apostolic letter by which Blessed Paul VI declared St. Benedict a patron of Europe, displayed at Montecassino abbey. (photo: CNA)

MONTECASSINO, Italy — The European Union could be significant and helpful in solving crises around the world, but its common effort should lie in its Christians roots, which are somewhat forgotten, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said on Friday.

The Vatican’s secretary of state spoke to CNA Oct. 24 during a visit to the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino. The event coincided with the appointment of a new abbot for the community and its reorganization and commemorated the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s visit to the first community of the Order of St. Benedict.

When he visited Montecassino in 1964, Pope Paul read his apostolic letter Pacis Nuntius, proclaiming St. Benedict a patron of Europe and acknowledging the monk’s work in building a common European identity.

Cardinal Parolin regretted that, 50 years later, it seems, “there is no more wish for ‘Europe’ as there was 50 years ago.”

He underscored that the European Union could be one of the most important actors in the world arena, but added that it needs to “speak with one voice” and look back to its common roots.

“I believe that Europe is suffering of the common loss of historical memory, which forbids us to remember where we hail from and what are the deep roots of this Europe.”

In his analysis of the Middle-East situation and plight of Christians there, given during the Oct. 20 consistory, Cardinal Parolin had also blamed the international community — including the European Union — for having remained silent as the situation worsened.

“Europe should find one voice. … We believe that the problems of the Middle East should be solved by the Middle-Eastern countries, but we also believe that Europe can help those countries in their purpose, since we know that a big part of this conflict comes from outside the Middle East.”

And Europe should “even more” give its contribution in “solving the Ukraine situation, trying to put together the interests of everyone,” Cardinal Parolin said.

The cardinal suggested that Europe’s inability to solve such problems as those in Ukraine and the Middle East stem from its tendency to remove its Christian roots from the public square.

According to Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Shkodre-Pult, a bishop in Albania, who is deputy president of the Council for European Bishops’ Conferences, Pope Francis addressed the issue in an off-the-cuff — and still unpublished — speech delivered Oct. 3 to the European bishops gathered in Rome for their plenary session.

“The Pope said: ‘I don’t understand why its Christian roots have not been acknowledged in the European Constitution,’” Bishop Massafra shared with CNA shortly after the address.

Cardinal Parolin said, “The issue of Christian roots is not in the public agenda, since the European Constitution is no longer under discussion,” but “we are always aware that Europe should build itself on its deep roots, though we are not giving so many public interventions on this issue.”

“That Christian roots be not forgotten is a warranty for a healthy laity in Europe. Christian roots are not just a historical memory of the past; they are still very current,” explained the secretary of state.

Cardinal Parolin asked: “Where do human rights have their foundation? Where does solidarity have its foundation? These topics are of typically Christian inspiration, even if they have continued to evolve.”

In his Oct. 20 address to the consistory, Cardinal Parolin also praised Iran’s efforts, and he stressed that Vatican-Iranian relations will continue to be fostered, despite continued concerns over the country’s respect for human rights.

“The more we open to reality, the more we open to the world, the more we build relations of community — I might say, in more lay terms, of cooperation — the more human rights will be developed in the nations,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Following Pope Francis’ push for a culture of encounter, the secretary of state underscored that “dialogue must never end. Dialogue is the tool used by the strongest. Only [one] who has patience and internal strength is able to dialogue.

“There are no alternatives to dialogue, given that the only alternative is war, destruction, mutual destruction. Dialogue is indispensable.”

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