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Synod of European bishops (Vatican).

Vatican--The European bishops' Synod sat from October 1 to 23. The Synod's guidelines (lineamenta) did not fail to face the harsh truth: Christianity is threatened in Europe. Many Christians "seem to have lost their faith," or, at least, practise it only casually. "Practical materialism," religious relativism, and nationalism are rampant. Muslims are entering in large numbers (3 million in Germany, 2 million in France, others in Bosnia, Albania, and Kosovo). (See also November editorial, p. 3.)

In the Church herself many make ethical and doctrinal questions debatable; priestly and religious vocations keep dropping; and Catholics are reluctant to proclaim their faith in public. Activism will help the situation only if it is the fruit of prayer. However, the guidelines also noted the "emergence of zealous small faith communities and of lay spiritual movements."

The Synod, with its theme "Jesus Christ, source of hope for Europe," faced the problem head-on. The crisis of Europe is a crisis of spirit, explained Cardinal Jan Schotte, the secretary-general of the Synod. As an example he used France where a recent survey revealed that 68% of the people do not think that God is important.

Faith is no longer transmitted in Europe "through traditional methods," the Belgian Cardinal said. The family, for example, faces so many problems and difficulties that it is no longer able to dedicate itself to this task. Schools pay more attention to culture and current news, making it that much more difficult to transmit real education in the faith. The media are not on our side, attendance at church is in decline, and the number of the "unchurched" is growing all the time.

Despite the crisis, the bishops refused to surrender themselves to pessimism, something Christians have no business doing. The future is determined by Christ, not by puny efforts of man. We don't turn "a blind eye to disappointments," said Cardinal Tettamanzi of Genoa; rather, "realism makes us free and bold." Also, history tells us that this is not the first time that the faith in Europe has undergone a hard test. Above all, he said, Christians must "learn to resist in the face of any seduction," "ceasing to live as 'one of the herd'."

What must be done? As expected, most of the suggestions centred around the deepening of Catholic spirituality.

The final communique of the Synod was entitled "We joyfully witness to the Gospel of Hope in Europe." One may ask: "Is this just window dressing? Why 'hope' in the face of crisis and collapse?"

The message listed the following signs of hope: the many (recent) martyrs of all Christian confessions in both the east and west; the holiness of many men and women in the simplicity of their lives; an increased focus on the Church's spiritual mission; the flowering of new movements; a renewed commitment to the Gospel; increased awareness of the co-responsibility of all Christians; the growing presence and activity of lay women; the steps forward on the ecumenical journey in truth.

In summary, said Cardinal Tettamanzi, the great challenge of the Church in Europe is not so much "to baptize converts as to convert the baptized."
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Previous Article:The Holy Door.
Next Article:The Priest and the Third Millennium (Vatican).

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