Address by Archbishop Christodoulos to the Eurodeputies
Honorable Members of the European Parliament,
I thank you for the honor of inviting me to address you in this hall, one which realizes the visions of Adenauer, of Schumann, of de Gasperi, and of Monnet.
As one ponders history one feels awe at the courage and decisiveness of these great figures who were able to overcome stereotypes and century-long established perceptions. In their struggle they had faith and they had strength, and they struggled against the current. And with God’s blessing they were able not only to lay the foundations of the un-ion of Europe, but also of progress and of peace.
You recently celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of your party. As a result of your labors and your abilities the party has become a his-toric force. You worked hard and responsibly for the creation of a united Europe, and its people shall not forget your contribution in the future.
Of course you were not alone. Other parties also worked with comparable passion to achieve this union. I would say the fact that most parties worked with impressive solidarity to achieve the same aim consti-tutes an important and instructive historical event: the building of Europe.
The great esteem in which I hold for your labors and their fruits determines the framework within which I will set forth the thoughts that follow. Al-low me therefore to begin with an explanation regard-ing the reason and the manner by which the Church can make its voice heard in the political realm.
The views of the Orthodox Church regarding ei-ther the system of government or manner in which a people are governed are perforce limited. It always prays for peace, and it always helps the suffering and the weak. The Church also has a great concern for tradition and the values it embodies.
This is the reason for the Church’s interces-sion: in order to ask that the strong lighten the weight that presses upon the weak.
There is however an additional reason. The Church feels that it is the ark of the spirit of its people. The ark of tradition, and the values it em-bodies. For this reason the Church will intervene to preserve the particular identity of its people, natu-rally without obstructing creativity and renovation. This has nothing to do with nationalism. It has eve-rything to do with the aforementioned fact that Church is the ark of tradition and the values this embodies.
These are the reasons for which the Church of Greece feels the need to communicate with you about the Europe we are constructing.
The disagreement of the Church regarding aspects of the plan for a European constitution is widely known. I will not present here the views of the Church of Greece on this important subject. There ex-ists a publication on the subject available to those of you who are interested. Allow me however to insist that the request for the inclusion in the preface of the constitution of a reference to Christianity as foundational in the European spirit is neither a de-mand for an auto da fe, nor for an enactment of faith, but of a rendering of honor due to history and to our civilization.
What the Church of Greece would like you, and all of the European commonwealth, to note is not what the constitution must include, but what kind of union we want to create. I must note that neither the Com-mission nor the European Parliament gives us the im-pression that they are very clear on this point.
It is not my place to criticize your admittedly difficult task. That which the Church demands is that the Union remain European, an expression of European Civilization. For a number of centuries we Europeans have agreed that Europe is not merely a geographic term, but a cultural reality, from which latter fact it derives geopolitical importance. If we do not take this realization into account then we are not creat-ing Europe but a new entity, alien and possibly hos-tile to Europe and its civilization.
We understand that politics cannot be an echo of history, nor does it draw exclusively from the real-ity of the past. If that were the case we would have had Europe, but probably not the European Union. In fact a transcendence of history was necessary in or-der to achieve this union. It was necessary to seize the right historical moment so that the enlightened consciences of the European founding fathers could transcend the implacable reality of the World War and unite their powers in order to change the course of the history of the Europeans. It was necessary that the likes of Schumann and Adenauer intervene in order that a transcendence of the French-German hostility be achieved.
This transcendence was achieved however on the basis of foundational values of European conscious-ness: the foundational Christian rule of forgiveness and of love, as Schumann and Adenuaer themselves ex-plained. It does not concern me to what degree these men were Christian, nor am I attempting to attribute their initiative to their religious conscience. I simply want to note that they succeeded in this tras-ncendence on the basis of values drawn from their common culture. They did not act in a vacuum nor did they ignore history.
We owe the fact that we are here to these two personalities. Our debt however is not limited to these two figures; we would not be here, in this room, discussing this subject, if Europe did not have, above all, a common civilization, with common values.
In this spirit and context the Church of Greece demanded a reference to Christianity in the envi-sioned European constitution. And together with Christianity the Church asked for a reference to Greek paideia (learning and culture) and the Roman conception of civil justice. What the Church desires is a vindication of the founding ideas of the Euro-pean Union, which only will come if it remains an expression and reaffirmation of European Civiliza-tion.
The demand for a reference to Christianity is not an act that aims to obstruct the secular state, but an act that desires to protect European con-sciousness.
The planned European constitution’s failure to refer to the foundations of European consciousness represents in my view the first truly regrettable event in the history of the Union. We have seen not a few panic-ridden politicians who deny our common his-tory, and who did not dare to speak on behalf of what should be obvious. We are witnessing an inconceivable paradox: the fear of the political leadership to state whom it represents.
The Church is cognizant of and recognizes the contribution of humanism, as well as of the great ideological currents that have played a role in the history of our peoples. Humanism and the political currents however are parts of the tripartite founda-tion of the European spirit.
Ultimately the constitution is not the main problem. What is infinitely more important is what you intend to do with the countries that desire to join the European Union but that are not part of our civiliza-tion and culture. If you establish a special rela-tionship with such countries, that allows for the greatest degree of possible cooperation but that keeps them outside of the Union, you will demonstrate the wisdom reflected by our culture.
On the other hand, if you submit to transitory assessments, if you allow the European Union to fall prey to geopolitical expediencies, then you will lose sight of what is desirable. A union that would in-clude the countries of the eastern and southern Medi-terranean will constitute a historical joke. Who among us desires a political entity comparable to the erstwhile Soviet Union. Who among us did not see in its collapse something more than the fall of Commu-nism? Who did not see in it the dissolution of a «un-ion» of dissimilar cultures?
The Churches would have had nothing to fear if a policy aimed to incorporate alien cultures was unsuc-cessful. All European Churches are concerned that such a policy would have devastating consequences for the European spirit. Such a policy means that such a monstrous «union» would succeed only to the degree that it is able to eliminate ethnic and national identities. Such a policy succeeds only if a state named «European Union» functions as a «melting pot». Such a policy leads to the draining of the European spirit and using its corpse for the construction of a grey mass with the incoherent designation of a «mul-ticultural union». If the European political leader-ship in fact desires this, why does it not have the courage to admit it and why does it persist in call-ing this union «European»?
I read carefully the principles of your party as these were expressed in the 14th Conference in Berlin in 2001. I saw with satisfaction that you share the basic assumptions I express hereby. I hope that you persuade the European Parliament in its entirety that its task is to protect the political leadership from hegemonic and imperial pretensions.
The Churches of Europe, and with them the Church of Greece, do not demand the imposition of Christian-ity, do not dispute whatever contributions were made by other religions, and indeed by different ideolo-gies, and they are not attempting to designate the faith and the way of life of the citizens of Europe. They ask that the European not feel a stranger in his own home, and are acting to prevent the political as-sassination of the European spirit.
Surely the indifference shown by the political leadership towards European consciousness, or at least its inability to protect it, does not damage the Church. Indeed it designates it as the institu-tion that preserves and sustains our civilization, the qualities that define our world. For the Church it is an honor to assume this duty. After all, it is not the first time that it has undertaken this task.
I ask myself however if the political leadership of Europe as a body realizes what will be the conse-quences of its alienation from the European soul.
Whatever the case, I am absolutely certain that the Churches of Europe will fulfill their duties. I do not know the ways each will choose, and to what degree they will cooperate with each other in order to succeed at their task. I can only tell you about the Church of Greece.
Our Church will be saddened that the Union’s in-stitutions will not desire or will not be able to see as their task to reinforce European self-consciousness, but it will by word and deed sustain the European identity of the Union.
Our Church already is studying the creation of a special entity that will concern itself with the European spirit and its inheritance. We shall cooper-ate as closely as possible with the other Churches and confessions of Europe. We will address the youth of Europe utilizing to the greatest possible extent the new communications techniques. I would want to have you support our work as individuals. There are many ways of support and cooperation. And I would be very pleased if each of you collaborated with the Church of his or her country, urging it to initiate programs that would sustain European cultural iden-tity.
I hope that we call all to work together so that we can affirm that Europe is not just a space but a coherent civilization. To work in order to demon-strate to our youth that we lay aside even the most profitable of our interests in favor of our vision.