The Course of the EU and the Attitude of the Church
Archbishop said to Eurodeputies: "Our Church views the matter in another manner: one does not avert an evil by generating a much greater evil that awaits one tomorrow. The much greater evil in this case is the abolition of European self-consciousness; it will be a much greater evil that we Greeks shall pay dearly for, if we fall into a Europe / melting pot, irreparably estranged from the fundamental triptych of our civilisation: Christian faith, classical learning, rule of law".
The Course of the EU and the Attitude of the Church
Toast at the lunch extended
to the RH Commissioner of Greece in the EU and
to the Honourable Greek Members of the European Parliament
Athens, February 27, 2006
I am happy to have the honour of receiving you again today around a table indicating that our communication is not a formal engagement but a bond; it is not a political intervention but an expression of thanks of our Church and particularly of myself to you; thanks for being, all of you, a vital and valuable instrument of promotion of European unity.
In this toast I am about to propose I do not wish to tire you by reiterating positions of the Church that have already been made known and declared. Even so, I consider that the tendencies observed in the decision-making centres of the EU render the review of the European prospect useful and we would very much like to hear your invaluable thoughts on this matter. Because, as we all realise, we have moved away from the spirit of the founding fathers of the Union and in no way should it be taken for granted that the political leadership continues to follow the path that really leads to the union of Europe. May I ask you kindly to see this remark of mine as an expression of concern, of fear maybe, but in no way as a political criticism.
As you know, the Church desires the accomplishment of European integration. She hopes that it will contribute to the economic advancement of the peoples of Europe and therefore to the prosperity of Her flock as well. Furthermore, She is certain that by this process intra-continental wars will be limited, having scarred the body of European history from its inception. Nonetheless, the Church also sees something above and beyond all this: namely, She sees that political integration will greatly reinforce the sociality and cultural unity of Europe.
The Church regards the transformation of the European Union into a merely economic entity as a disastrous prospect, because in this prospect, Europe will become the field of ruthless competition. Not only will the social role of the state be degraded but sociality itself will be replaced by cynical claims.
Economic union is absolutely positive provided that it does not become an end in itself, that it ministers society and that it obeys politics. Societies, my dear friends, are not like private companies. This is why, whenever there was an attempt at subjugating societies to the logic of private companies, the result was the culmination of injustice. Whenever there is an excess of injustice, no one is innocent of the blood.
The Church would have liked the common Constitution to be accepted by all. You know that the Constitution proposed was not satisfactory to us, because, as we explained, it was a Constitution that did not dare to make reference to the values upon which our civilisation was founded. It was a Constitution that sought to conceal the existence of the European and was formulated as if it were to do with beings manufactured in the laboratories of pseudo-political convenience. Even so, it was a step, albeit a shaky and timid one, in the direction of the political integration of Europe. Its acceptance would have amounted by itself to a momentum of reinforcement of European self-consciousness and of rejection of elements alien to Europe.
Sadly, however, and while the effort for the acceptance of the Constitution were still under way, it became visible that European policy was being subjugated to geopolitical criteria equally alien to the social and political essence of Europe. In the initial approval of Turkey’s accession we see a most clear marginalisation of the social and cultural criteria of the Union. I would like to remind you of something Voltaire used to say, ironically, against the Holy Roman Empire, namely that it never was either holy or Roman or an empire. I fear lest, by following today’s course, we may have to remember Voltaire’s comment every time we shall need to speak of the European Union. After the approval of Turkey’s accession, it became clear to the peoples that European policy was unable to map out one geopolitical perception that would serve the future of Europe but it was subordinated to alienating geopolitical perceptions, to national and ephemeral or hegemonic interests, alien and opposed to European society and spirituality.
At this point please allow me to emphasise that the criterion of the Church as to needs and priorities is different from that of politics. As a result, we often have different positions. However, the formulation of different positions does not signify conflict with the political leadership. The Church has Her own discourse, and this discourse is not denunciatory nor divisive, unless it is received in an alien manner, that is unless the word of the Church is misread.
The difference between the discourse of the Church and that of the state on the matter of the accession of Turkey is telling. The political leadership of our country invokes the interests of Greece in order to explain its policy of support for the European prospect of Turkey. Our Church views the matter in another manner: one does not avert an evil by generating a much greater evil that awaits one tomorrow. The much greater evil in this case is the abolition of European self-consciousness; it will be a much greater evil that we Greeks shall pay dearly for, if we fall into a Europe / melting pot, irreparably estranged from the fundamental triptych of our civilisation: Christian faith, classical learning, rule of law.
There is no doubt that all political leaderships which support Turkey’s accession have their explanations. May I point out here that history, psychology and theology concur in this: there is no sin without its plausible explanation. You may recall that Eve immediately offered an explanation to Adam for her act, and Adam explained his choice to God as easily. As you see, it was with this explanation and the other that we found ourselves thrown out of Paradise. I wish, therefore, that we may not reach the point of discovering that the European world was lost because the political leaderships of Europe had their convincing explanations.
At any rate, it is no wonder that both God and the Europeans rejected the explanations. On a more serious note now, I would say that the attitude of Europeans was a sign of health; it was a reaction absolutely in accordance with their cultural heritage. Because, in fact, they did not reject the Constitution, but they expressed their opposition to the abolition of their cultural identity, they rejected heterogeneous society as an ideal.
The leadership of Europe, not just the political one but in its entirety, must realise that Europeans accept tolerance towards the alien element, but only as long as the stability of their societies and of their civilisation is reinforced. All those who like to draw the future of peoples on paper should realise that Europeans are not prepared to reject what constitutes them; they do not wish to attend the funeral of their very identity.
It now remains to see what we have to do. It is up to you to see to the extent to which the need for political choices not to depart from cultural reality will be understood. The Church can only pray but cannot exert any pressure for this to happen.
Even so, the Church is not a mere spectator watching from the tiers a contest that does not concern Her. Some would have liked this to be the case, but it cannot be. The Church, even when She prays in silence, she prays for the world. Those who do not underestimate the world of the spirit know that only few men are as sociable as ascetics. May I remind you that, in our previous meeting, I affirmed that the Church would support the European vision irrespective of what the political leadership of Europe would do. This was of course not a threat. It was a promise of ministration. The Church must not and cannot abandon Her ministration. To the Church, the fight for Europe is a fight pro domo sua, to recall Cicero, or a fight “both for [Her]self and for the people” (Leviticus 16,24), if you prefer to recall the Holy Scripture.
Let me now very briefly present our actions and goals to you.
The Church of Greece wishes for the unity of the Churches and works for it, with very careful steps. However, until unity becomes a blessed reality, we actively participate, through our Delegation in Brussels, in all fora that promote inter-Church co-operation in Europe. At the same time, our Synodal Committee on European Affairs, in co-operation with the Office of the European Parliament here in Athens, implements a project of training of clergy and preachers, so that the staff of our Church may appropriate European problematics to themselves.
Within the framework of the co-operation developed between the Churches of Europe, we have organised the International Conference of the World Council of Churches in Athens. I shall personally visit the Council and shall have the honour of addressing its plenary. Within the same framework we carried out the edition of one of the greatest and historical manuscripts, known as Vaticanus Graecus 1613, in a joint endeavour of the Apostolic Diakonia of our Church and the Vatican Library. This edition marked a turning point in the relationship between the Churches of Greece and Rome. The opening-up to the Roman Catholic Church, an opening that will serve co-operation on the European level, will be continued by my forthcoming visit to Rome and my meeting with the Pontiff.
Last but not least, I shall mention the efforts of the Church to promote the co-operation between European Christians for the reinforcement of the spiritual aspects of European particularity. To this purpose, the Church proceeds to the creation of a site on the Internet, largely in English. The first section of the site, under the title “Bibliotheca Europeana”, is already operative, with about 30 texts which, by the end of the current year, are scheduled to increase to over 100. You may visit the site at the address www.europeanspirit.gr. This site would have already been fully operative but we stumbled upon unexpected legal problems. We have now overcome them, and the Cultural Projects and Internet Unit of the Communication and Edification Service of our Church is now working intensely for the completion of the site and the edition of an electronic newsletter in English, entitled “Europe at Issue”. We shall send you its first issue soon and shall gladly expect your comments and contributions.
The aim of these moves is to develop —I would not say an organisation but— a network of personalities that wish to minister Europeans with us. We would like this to lead, not of course to political action but to a reinforcement of the European self-consciousness, to a deeper understanding and a more effective defence of the European’s origins, which are Christian faith, classical learning and the rule of law.
We want to resist those tendencies and powers which push for the abolition of the European identity, which would like to turn Europeans into mere inhabitants of a space without individual identity, estranged from their heritage and passive recipients of their future.
I would like to assure you that not only shall we keep you informed but we shall try to gain your support for this endeavour. Because what is now at stake is not which political party sees things correctly but the right of Europeans not to end up crypto-Christians in their own societies, their right to affirm their civilisation.
In the certainty that we shall have your sympathetic criticism and your wholehearted support, please allow me to lift my glass in a toast to you and in honour of all those who have contributed to the creation and the realisation of the European vision.
[Transl. into English by
Dr Nikolaos C. Petropoulos]