Crises of Church in Europe is due to crisis in faith

The crisis in the Church in Europe is in essence due to a crisis of faith, Pope Benedict XVI told cardinals and Vatican officials as they exchanged Christmas greetings.

Reflecting on the year that had passed, marked by, “an economic and financial crisis,” that is, "ultimately based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent,” the Pope noted the need for reform within the Church.

"Faithful believers … are noticing with concern that regular churchgoers are growing older all the time and that their number is constantly diminishing; that recruitment of priests is stagnating; that scepticism and unbelief are growing.  There are endless debates over what must be done in order to reverse the trend,” he said.

While a variety of things needed to be done, said the pontiff, “the essence of the crisis of the Church in Europe … is the crisis of faith.  If we find no answer to this, if faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength from the encounter with Jesus Christ, then all other reforms will remain ineffective.”

He contrasted the European "faith fatigue" with Africa, where you could still sense "people's joy in being Christian, buoyed up by inner happiness at knowing Christ and belonging to His Church.”

He went on, "From this joy comes also the strength to serve Christ in hard-pressed situations of human suffering, the strength to put oneself at his disposal, without looking round for one's own advantage."

Another sign of hope was the World Youth Days where a new, "youthful form of Christianity" could be seen, characterised by five elements.  Firstly, the experience of the universality of the Church. 

“We come from every continent, but although we have never met one another, we know one another" because "the same inner encounter with Jesus Christ has stamped us deep within with the same structure of intellect, will, and heart.  In this setting, to say that all human beings are brothers and sisters is not merely an idea: it becomes a real shared experience, generating joy.”

The other elements in this “youthful form of Christianity,” were a new way of living our humanity, which, for example, the 20,000 young volunteers experienced at the WYD in Madrid. 

"At the end of the day, these young people were visibly and tangibly filled with a great sense of happiness: the time that they had given up had meaning; in giving of their time and work, they had found time, they had found life.”

The Pope found the same attitude in Africa from the Sisters of Mother Teresa, "who devote themselves to the abandoned, sick, poor, and suffering children, without asking anything for themselves, thus becoming inwardly rich and free.  This is the genuinely Christian attitude.”

The other elements are Adoration, Confession and an acceptance, “that I am loved.” 

“Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist.  It is good to be a human being, even in hard times.  Faith makes you happy from deep within.”

The Pope told the members of Curia that the key theme of this year, and the years ahead is, and will be, evangelisation. 

“How do we proclaim the Gospel today in a way that the faith may be the living force that is absent today?”

by Susan Gately

© 2002-2011


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