Friday, June 13, 2003

From John Allen

Why the visit to Croatia was so important to the Pope:

The pope has long feared that the secularized culture of Western Europe suffers from amnesia, forgetting that Christianity shaped its history and value system. Cut off from its roots, John Paul worries, Europe could drift into nihilism, or become fertile ground for the spread of aggressively missionary religious alternatives such as Islam.

John Paul believes the Catholic nations of the former Socialist block can inject a religious booster shot into the Western bloodstream. That’s why he is anxious for Croatia, Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia to join the European Union, and it’s why last December the Vatican expressed disappointment that Croatia didn’t apply early enough for the first round of new entries. As things stand, Croatia will likely join in 2007.

Croatia’s tenacious brand of Catholicism has been shaped in part by geography. A nation of 4.4 million that’s 87 percent Catholic, Croatia finds itself at the extremities of Western Christianity. To the east is Serbia and Orthodoxy; to the south, Bosnia and Islam. Hence Croatia is an outpost of Western Christianity of symbolic and strategic importance.

“It is my hope,” the pope said June 6 in Dubrovnik, “that the patrimony of human and Christian values, accumulated down the centuries, will continue, with the help of God and of your Patron Saint Blaise, to be the most precious treasure of the people of this country.”

On the ludicrous proposed preamble to the EU constitution:

The draft says that Europe was nourished by “Hellenic and Roman civilizations,” then “marked by the spiritual impulse that runs through it and whose traces are present in its patrimony,” then finally “by the philosophical currents of the Enlightenment.” Hence Greece, Rome and the Enlightenment are mentioned, but not specifically Christianity, as the sources of European culture.An inter-governmental commission must examine the draft, then the parliament of the European Union will vote.I asked Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls in Dubrovnik June 7 if he felt the Vatican could still prevail in the battle to place a reference to Christianity in the text, and he responded: “The answer is an unconditional yes.”Navarro said some heads of state are coming around to the Vatican position, recognizing that omitting Christianity from the list of forces that have shaped European civilization is “ridiculous from a historical point of view.”