Homily Following the Vesper Service on the Feast Day of the Apostle Paul
I am overwhelmed by emotion because the Church speaks here today, in order to bear witness to the peoples of Europe, in the same place where the Apostle Paul brought the mes-sage of the Gospel to the European world uttering «words of truth and soberness» (Acts, 26, 25).
Before I give the floor to the representatives of the Holy Synod please allow me briefly to formulate some introductory remarks.
First of all I would like to congratulate the Greek Presidency from this Holy Rostrum, because it worked hard and succeeded in advancing decisively the expansion of the European Union, thus opening the way for this Union to become truly European. We pray to our Lord for the time of accession of the other European peoples, of Norway and Iceland, of Switzer-land and of course the Balkan.
The project leading to a Union of the European world is unique in history. There exists no precedent to the decision by so many nations to resign peacefully and democratically from sovereign rights in order to become members of a more inclusive entity. Even the United States, which was formed on the basis of accommodation, became a unified republic only af-ter a bloody and cruel civil war.
The peaceful European course towards union certainly is not a random event. It is the product of the universal ideas developed by Greek philosophy during the Hellenistic period, which were in turn adopted by the Roman Empire. Above all however this course is the result of the ecumenical Christian teaching and of the Apostolic spirit of the Church.
While Paul was in Greece he «shook his raiment» and said to his compatriots: «Your blood be upon your heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles» (Acts, 18,6).
We owe to this decision the dissemination of Christianity in Europe. We owe to this Apostolic spirit the strengthening of the sense among all European people that they are part of one community, one republic, one Church: «For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body [...] and have been made to drink into one spirit» (I Corinthians 12,13).
This is a sense that has permeated the conscience of the European person, and runs through the history of Europe from late antiquity until the present as an expectation and as a vision.
The imperative for a European union was not dictated by geographical conditions, nor by some racialist notion, not even by political exigency. It is an expectation borne of a spirit, with deep religious roots. Christianity is the loom of union.
The bold Frenchman Robert Schuman, the greatest of united Europe’s «founding fa-thers», revealed succinctly the deeply Christian foundation of Europe’s struggle for union, when he called all of us, in his words,
“ to allow the idea of a reconciled, united and powerful Europe to become the key for the new generations, which reject fear and hatred and again rediscover the meaning of Christian brotherhood.”
When, on May 9, 1950, Robert Schuman called for European economic cooperation, which would be the cornerstone of a federal political union, a very few people understood that henceforth the word Europe would assume another meaning.
Few comprehended that Europe was becoming politically that which it already was spiritually, viz. one community. Fifty-three years have passed since that time and we find our-selves in the midst of discussions concerning a Constitution for the Union.
It is a course that brings about great joy. The proposed Constitution however does not meet the expectations of the Churches of Europe. Why? That is a question that concerns a large part of public opinion, both within Europe and without.
It is obvious that the Church does not need to be mentioned in constitutions for it exist and to develop. «So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed» (Acts 19,20), as does that of the Church. It was able to grow and remain in the heart of the world as its treasure even when under persecutions –– and I don’t mean in the Roman era only. I am sure that all Hier-archs, indeed all the leaders of Christian confessions, not to mention millions of the faithful, have a full sense of this reality.
Besides, no European Church has asked for acknowledgment in a manner that would perhaps constitute a violation of the right of European citizens to have another religion, or none at all.
The Churches asked for an explicit reference to the role of Christianity as the founder and creator of Europe, not in order to praise the Church, but in order to strengthen European self-knowledge and consciousness.
They asked for respect of the present legal context (i.e. the continuation of the observa-tion of the Sunday work pause, of the holidays and feast days, the legal status of the Churches etc.) not because they intend to interfere with the lawmaking intentions of the Union, but in order that the European not feel a stranger in his own home, that he/she not feel a hostility emanating from the very Union he so eagerly sought.
They asked for increased concern for the survival and reinforcement of the national identities of Europe, not in order to maintain topical prerogatives, but so that the Union not become transformed into a mechanism of alienation from European cultural and ethnic diver-sity.
They asked for respect of the spiritual values that Christianity taught, not in order to impose a particular moral behavior on all, but so as save those things that the Europeans struggled to establish as limits in their life and activity.
Instead of the above, the proposed Constitution speaks vaguely about a European heri-tage, not daring to refer specifically to Europe’s actual progenitor. Thus, this document ig-nores some of Europe’s history, which it supposedly will serve and bolster.
I do not believe there are many Europeans who are ignorant of Christianity’s role in the history of Europe, or their own particular nations. What purpose then does this censorship serve?
It is understood that the process leading to a European Union is based on dialogue, on the search for commonly acceptable and accepted solutions. The basis of democracy relates to serving the interest of the many, not a privileged few.
The Church goes one step further. Beyond the rationale of democracy it also provides maternal love. Not only is it mindful of the commonweal, but it also strives to avoid the crea-tion of disagreements and disputes, indeed the creation in some of a feeling of marginaliza-tion. That is why the Church is the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5,18-20).
There can be however no reconciliation with denial, we cannot carry on a dialogue shaded by obfuscation and deceit, while we are afraid to accept who we are.
Dialogue lies at the heart of the European spirit, as its political life and its history were defined by it, since all treaties are products of dialectical compromise. The European person refuses the logic of «woe to the defeated,» which he or she considers barbaric. It is hard to conceive where to compromise when dealing with history and with the idea of democracy; as it is not possible to put history and democracy aside.
Therefore, here is the question: why is there no reference to the cultural identity of Europe in the proposed Constitution? What did the political world fear when it left it out?
In the first draft of this document there was explicit reference to antiquity, Greek and Roman. It was correct that such exist since our foundational relating to education and justice derive directly from the ancients. This reference has been struck out in the present draft and has been replaced by a general mention of «tradition,» which we honor but dare not specify.
Why did this take place? In order not to mention Christianity. In order that we erase Christianity from the document, we have witnessed the acceptance of censorship by the po-litical world of Europe; indeed some consider that an achievement.
If it is not hostility against Christianity, then what does the attempt to delete it from history mean?
I ask this not with the intent to defend history, since it always will punish those who are foolhardy to ignore or to censor it. I ask only in order to demonstrate the pathology that has afflicted the present course towards the European Union.
Reality is not afraid to show its face. European society is founded on Christianity, and it is entirely incomprehensible if we delete reference to it, either by slight of hand or through censorship. European civilization may be understood and interpreted only in the context of its dialogue with Christianity, even if it sometimes became heated, even if the retorts sometimes have been violent. The European spirit is entirely incomprehensible if we do not approach it as the magma created by Christianity incorporating Greek education and paideia and Roman perception of the law.
By deleting Christianity the proposed Constitution deletes Europe’s very essence, what it is, viz. a cultural entity, a coherent civilization.
By deleting Christianity, the proposed Constitution reduces the Church as a non-governmental organization, an institution whose houses of worship have the same status as the branch offices of a bank. The Church is nothing more than a strong lobby, among many others. The proposed Constitution does not simply suppress the mention of an institution, it conceals or even directly denies that the Church is humanity’s salvation. It simply recognizes its right to exist, amidst other legal entities. After so many centuries the proposed Constitution succeeded in dragging Europe back to 313 AD, to the time of Licinius...
By deleting Christianity, the proposed Constitution presents Europe as a region where democratic procedures are respected, as if this is the result of chance, as if these were not the product of a particular civilization. Thus, every parliamentary republic, even though it may have a culture that is entirely foreign to that of Europe, can become a member of the Union, as long as it respects parliamentary order and serves the geo-economic interests of the mo-ment.
In words that are perhaps bitter, but are certainly honest, the proposed Constitution for a united Europe is a dagger in the back of European civilization.
That being said, the question is not why the Churches in their totality resist what the proposed Constitution distorts and censors. The question is why only the Churches. Why not the academies of the European states, why not the universities and scholarly associations, why not the political parties and the press.
I understand the reservations: the political leadership of united Europe, all without doubt democratic, keeping in mind the interests of the European Union compromised, ex-pecting the Church not to react harshly.
In this space, a place glorified by human reason and sanctified by the divine Logos, we are obliged to examine what it means to have submitted to pressures: in fact an attempt has been made to censor our history to make it conform with certain ideologies. This is an im-portant point and we cannot dodge the issue.
The peoples of Europe have suffered greatly at the hands of small but powerful groups that have wished to fit history and our will to their demands.
It is the duty of all of us, not only the Church, readily and steadfastly to resist those who are building a future for our peoples based on practices that in the past have lead to totalitari-anisms and to Europe’s anguish.
There is however today a joyous message that I would like to pass on to you here. If the politicians submit to pressures and do not dare to put politics in the service of the European spirit, the Church is here.
The Christian Churches will not cease to exist and minister to the European world. The Christian Churches wish that the politicians raised themselves to the level demanded of them by our civilization. But, when this does not happen the Church does not abandon its flock. It continues indefatigable praying, working.
That is precisely what I want to assure you: the Church of Greece, as the Church founded by the Apostle Paul, shall invest much of its strength so that alone, and in coopera-tion with the other European Churches, it will reinforce the European spirit, and the demand for a genuine union of Europe, rejecting counterfeit constructions.
The message of the Apostle Paul will not cease to be spread, and the work of the Church will not be corrupted.