Participants in the Conference ‘Give a Soul to Europe. The Mission and Responsibility of the Churches’, organized in Vienna by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, address this appeal to the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches, to all Christians, to people of other religious traditions as well as to political and public leaders in European countries.
We are concerned for the destiny of European nations and their role in the modern world. While the Orthodox and Catholic traditions belong to the same European civilization, their influence led to the formation of distinctive cultures on the European continent and in other parts of the world. We are united not only by a religious, historical and cultural heritage, but also by an identical view of the way in which contemporary public and private life should be arranged. We believe that European civilization requires the protection and promotion of human freedom and dignity. At the same time, we see Europe’s successful development as based on a solid but flexible system of forming the morally responsible personality.
It is our firm conviction that an individual does not come into this world prepared to do only what is good. One has to learn to think and do the good. Today as never before, European countries need to foster moral education since its absence or inadequacy can lead to disastrous consequences such as the growth of all kinds of extremism, the decline of the birth rate, pollution of the environment, violence, and humiliation of human dignity.
Therefore, society itself has an interest in supporting and building an attractive image of doing the good. The State, for its part, is called to meet the moral demands of society and to reflect its moral traditions in its political and legislative work. The principle of moral responsibility, as well as the principle of freedom, should be consistently embodied in all spheres of human life: politics, the economy, education, science, culture and the mass media.
Christian Churches, just as other great world religious traditions, have always been and remain a source of educating people for moral responsibility. Basic moral norms are common to the vast majority of religions. Moreover, people’s spiritual thirst today directs them precisely to a search for answers to vital questions in faith. The religious worldview has become today a free choice of millions of people. Since religious organizations are not separated from society, it means that the efforts of parish and monastic communities, church schools and universities and cultural and social centers for forming moral responsibility should be positively recognized by the State and society.
Traditional religious organizations have the right to work with all people of good will in the fields of culture, science, education and the media. In many ways culture as a bearer of faith both in the past and present is our principal ally in the cause of religious education. Music, cinema, theatre and new forms of creative work inspired by the Christian message should find a worthy place in contemporary life, including the area of mass media.
Without the inspiration of profound moral principles characteristic of our two European religious traditions and of many secular schools of thought, Europeans will not be able to properly meet the challenges facing the modern world. It is only a solid combination of the principles of freedom and moral responsibility that can help to ensure Europe’s present and future common good. We are open to common action together with those who share this conviction. At the same time, we are ready for dialogue with all those who do not agree fully with these ideas but are open to discussion of them.
We believe that Christians, preaching the hope brought by Christ`s resurrection, united together with people of other faiths and convictions, can help everyone to live in an ethically grounded, just and peaceful society.
May 5, 2006