2006-05-05 10:44:00

Modern concept of human rights needs return to Christian roots

On May 5 in Vienna, the international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations completes its work. The Russian side has called Europe to return to the Christian system of values and expressed hope for dialogue with the Vatican.

Does Christianity have any prospects in the European continent? In which direction should the Roman Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Churches develop their cooperation? Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for culture, gives answers to these and other questions in an interview to Interfax-Religion.


- Recently Europe's loss of its Christian roots has been increasingly discussed. What is your vision of prospects for the revival of Christianity in Europe and what could serve as a stimulus for this revival?

- We should admit we no longer remember our Christian roots. It was evident, in particular, from the decision, in developing the European Constitution, not to refer in it to the special role of Christianity in the history of the Old World. We have lost the understanding of what Europe was for 2000 years and what it still remains.

I am convinced that the memory of our common roots will revive, because nations without historically memory have no future. In the first place, it should be revived through education, so that the essence of Europe may be conveyed to the future. And certainly, the revival of historical memory is impossible without the liturgy, which is in a sense a remembrance of the past, a return to the sources.

- How much, in your opinion, the liberal concept of human rights needs to be corrected to be brought in line with the gospel's commandments?

- The modern concept of human rights also needs a return to the roots. It is sometimes said that the human rights concept traces back to the Great French Revolution, but actually it is not so. The idea of human rights traces back to the Gospel, and the present-day concept of human rights are, as Chesterton put it, the Lord's commandments changed by a madman.

Freedom should necessarily go together with responsibility; it should presuppose not only rights but also obligations; to be freedom not from something but for something. It is not a freedom to do whatever one wishes. Otherwise a small child would have a freedom to get into a cupboard, take a poison and die.

- Do the Orthodox and Catholic Churches plan to broaden their cooperation in any areas in the nearest future?

- First of all, I would like to stress the importance of the Orthodox-Catholic Conference 'To Give a Soul to Europe. The Mission and Responsibility of the Churches', which took place on May 3-5, in Vienna. For the first time in history, representatives of our Churches gathered together to share common concerns. Clearly, our main problem today is the preaching of the gospel. It is our main task, and it is in this context that we should develop our cooperation.

- Is it possible to speak about a confrontation between the Islamic and Christian civilizations in Europe today? How realistic are attempts to adapt immigrants from Muslim countries to traditional European mentality and way of life?

- It is a very serious question. So far no country, no politician has been able to answer it. The problem is to establish not only norms of communal life for immigrants but also to create a motivation for these people. Therefore the integration of Muslims into modern European society should be supported by a certain motivation.

It is important that we all together understand our common tasks in face of the secularized society, remembering that we all, Christians, Muslims, Jews, have the same Abrahamic roots.