Cultures et foi - Cultures and Faith - Culturas y fe - 4/1996 - Studia
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Address to the Inter-dicasterial meeting held at the Pontifical Council for Culture on May 30, 1996.

Pontifical Council for Culture

In this introduction I should like to set the scene and offer a frame of reference for dialogue and exchange during this meeting. My starting-point is an epoch-making change that faces the Church with the need for a new evangelization of Europe. I propose, therefore, a brief analysis of some factors that make culture in the former communist countries something rich, complex and dynamic. Afterwards, I shall reflect on some challenges facing the Church in this situation. At the end I shall outline some initiatives undertaken in this field by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

In my reflections I shall pay particular attention to the anthropological dimension of culture: that is, culture understood as an ensemble of values, orientations and attitudes that create a certain form or style of life.

1. The epoch-making transformation in Europe
and the new evangelization

1.1.The collapse of the Communist system in Europe is undoubtedly one of the most noteworthy events of our century. The change brought about has had and continues to have decisive consequences at the social, political, economic and cultural levels, not only for the countries directly involved, but also for the whole of Europe and for the entire international community. It is part of another decisive process, with which in part it clashes: the path to a Europe that is more united and extends from the Atlantic to the Ural mountains. So the whole of Europe is faced with some vital questions.

The Holy Father, in his discourse on 19 May this year to the representatives of culture in the cathedral of Maribor/Slovenia, said: "This is the hour of truth for Europe. The walls have collapsed, the iron curtains are no more, but the challenge as regards the meaning of life and the value of liberty remain stronger than ever in the depths of minds and of consciences. And how can one not see that the question about God stands at the very heart of this problem?" The question posed, therefore, is: from what kind of awareness of God and of man, from what values and orientations, from what kind of culture will the emerging Europe be formed?

1.2.Much is said about the economic, political and social causes of change. The most decisive factor has been man himself. With his deepest aspirations to freedom, truth, spirituality and authentic happiness, he is the cause and the agent of the historic changes that we are experiencing. We are dealing with a crisis and a kairos for Europe and the Church. We can spot many elements of a cultural crisis and yet, at the same time, undeniable signs of a restless search on the part of many people for a life that is more human, authentic and profound. I have the impression that often, in public discussions, but also at times in the Church, negative and disturbing elements are too much the focus of our attention, at the expense of positive developments. It is undoubtedly necessary to look at the cultural situation realistically. But this also involves human nature, which is damaged – but not completely destroyed – in its more authentic faculties of knowing and realising what is true, good and beautiful. And so it is man himself, in all his integrity and transcendence, who is to be a basis for hope for the new Europe.

1.3.This situation calls for a new evangelization of culture which will bring about a new encounter with the person of Christ and with the saving message of the Gospel, the foundation and heart of the new evangelization on the threshold of the third Christian millennium. In preparation for the Synod of Bishops for Europe, the Pontifical Council for Culture organized a presynodal Symposium: Christianity and culture in Europe, Memory, Awareness, Project, held at the Vatican from 28 to 31 October, 1991. The reflections which follow are based principally on the proceedings of this Symposium (cfr. Cristianesimo e cultura in Europa, Atti del Simposio presinodale, Edizioni CSEO, Forlì 1991).

2. Culture in former communist countries:
something rich, complex and dynamic

A first fact that must be mentioned: culture in the countries in question is very rich and diversified. To speak of "former communist" countries means to speak only of one element of their history, certainly common to all these countries. Looking deeper, the cultural and historical greatness of all these peoples – until now often hidden under a totalitarian system – is now re- emerging and reasserting itself. It is also possible to find certain common levels and elements of culture which are present in different ways in the different countries. These interact, creating tensions and, at times, characteristic contradictions. To understand the cultural situation and to put more clearly into context the cultural challenges facing the Church, I propose to give a brief and necessarily rather general analysis of a few principal elements.

2.1.The disastrous consequences of the communist system at the moral, social and cultural level. It would appear that only after several years, and after the initial euphoria, people understood what living under such a totalitarian, dogmatic and police-like system really meant. This system often impeded spontaneous and free cultural development; it has left culture wounded and repressed at the social, political and religious level. It destroyed an authentic culture of law, thus preventing the development of a really democratic political culture. But, above all, it damaged people: it generated an attitude of fear and suspicion towards all, forced people to use falsehood in daily life, and weakened or destroyed a culture based on personal responsibility, a culture of creativity and initiative. Even today these consequences still condition many people's way of thinking and acting. Its most tragic effect at the human and religious level is a real moral and spiritual vacuum, which makes people more vulnerable at the heart of existence: in their moral, spiritual and religious choices. Finally, atheistic indoctrination and a lack of religious formation and information have left deep scars, creating a widespread feeling of practical atheism and relgious indifference.

2.2.The impact of western culture. The West has, undoubtedly, contributed by its values – human rights, individual liberty, decomocracy – to the change and the collapse of the communist system. But western culture, according to certain "postmodern" scholars, is itself in a moral, cultural and religious crisis; its capacity to function as the model of a culture based on authentic values is very limited. Besides, in the present situation, western culture is often received in former communist countries in its worst form, often as a reaction to the human and cultural defects of the communist system. For example, the forced collectivism of former times and the cultural and ideological uniformism can become fertile ground for the most exaggerated visions of individualism, self-affirmation, relativism and consumerism. Here, one should be aware of the important role of the media, especially television: the media often spread a rather low moral standard which generates great expectations in people and contributes to the spread of hedonistic attitudes.

2.3.A very important factor: the patrimony of Christian culture. In many cases Christianity has made a deep impression on the very identity of peoples and, over the centuries, has created a very rich patrimony of Christian culture that has survived, despite attempts to destroy it. In fact, it has often been reaffirmed precisely in times of persecution, above all by the courageous and faithful witness of so many Christians. There is, therefore, a patrimony of deep spiritual experience, the nucleus of an inner renewal of the Church and of culture in former communist countries, and a precious gift for the Church in the West.

2.4.The heritage of national cultures. This is often bound up with Christian heritage, so that at times belonging to a nation or a minority and belonging to a church or to a Christian community are seen as one and the same thing. The continuity of the millennial culture of peoples reveals a fact of great importance: it is impossible to eradicate the cultural memory of a century. Basically these millennial cultures determine today's cultures in a decisive way. Many scholars, for example, speak of the fundamental difference between countries marked by the influence of the Catholic Church and those marked by the influence of the Orthodox Church. The fact that a country or a region belonged to either the Habsburg or the Ottoman empire had a crucial effect on its cultural development.

These differences certainly help to create the rich cultural heritage of Central and Eastern Europe. But there is also the burden of history: secular tensions among peoples, mutual wounds and hatred. The communist system often only concealed these pressing problems, but at times exacerbated them. Today, in many cases, they explode violently, as we all know.

2.5.The result of the situation that has been described is a cultural situation that is both tense and restless. On the one hand it affirms an intense search for belonging, direction and identity. In this context one can understand the role played by nationalisms old and new, and by ethnic identities; the return to an idealised communist or precommunist past and the search for strong authority. It is also easily to understand the enormous impact of sects or new religious movements: they often offer easy, concrete answers to people's needs; and if they are new or come from the West, they appear more interesting than one's own Christian religion.

People look for identity in belonging to social groups. But, at the same time, there is an opposite tendency to liberalism and individualism with no limits: they assert their autonomy as individuals and their desire for economic well-being, and they want to get rich at all costs, adopting a culture of unbridled capitalism with a total rejection of religious authority and tradition. A point of particular importance in this context is the role of many former communist intellectuals. Before, they upheld only one truth – Marxism. Now these same people are spreading the ideology of relativistic post-modernism; they attack any conception of truth and objective norms. The only element of continuity with Marxism is hostility to Christian faith and to the Church.

All these elements do not exist in a pure state, but combine to create attitudes which often contradict each other. This complex situation poses critical cultural challenges for the Church throughout Europe, which cannot be faced without intensive collaboration and an "exchange of gifts" between the particular Churches in Western, Central and Eastern Europe.

3. Challenges for the Church

3.1.I see a first challenge in the need to propose a positive Christian vision. This presupposes a realistic, clear and acute analysis of cultural situations and their problems and tensions, but also of people's aspirations and needs. The Christian message is the proclamation of the Good News, a message of hope, salvation and reconciliation. "God loves you. Christ has come for you": the profound theological and anthropological significance of the kernel of the new evangelization is revealed as an expression of God's absolute love for every person.

In this context, faith's capacity to overcome people's fears and to set them free from anxiety, things which often block positive growth in society and in culture, is particularly important. This is one of its most important spiritual contributions to culture in former communist countries: it broadens people's horizons, often narrowed by despair, and gives meaning to life and prospects for the future.

3.2.It seems important to face with courage the change in the Church's place in society, from the role it had under the communist system to its new role in a society that is more liberal and pluralistic, but marked by characteristics of modern and post-modern culture. The Church has often exercised a very important function as the guarantor of the freedom and dignity of the person. But I think it is necessary to distinguish more clearly between some of the Church's social and human functions under communismm, as well as certain expressions of traditional piety, and faith lived as a personal decision. The change to a society marked to a large extent by liberalism, pluralism and secularism is a process which demands time and theological and pastoral discernment. In responding to the fragmentation of culture, it will be important to propose an integral Christian vision of man.

3.3.A fundamental challenge is that of non-belief and religious indifference. It is the legacy of an atheistic communist system which links into a widespread practical atheism and multiform agnosticism in the West. These tend to reinforce each other, as one can see very clearly in Germany: the existence of a great majority of unbaptised people in the new Länder really aggravates the effect of secularisation and hostility to the faith.

The spiritual experience of the Church in the former communist countries is very important in facing up to this challenge: the experience, that is, that without a transcendent dimension, without a relationship with God, human dignity and the intrinsic value of what God has created vanish into nothingness. Everything loses its innate goodness and becomes merely something to be used. This is the most profound dimension of the Church's defence of the dignity of every person, of life, of human rights and the rights of peoples.

3.4.As a sacrament of unity, the Church is also called to commit herself to a culture of reconciliation, as the only institution capable of grasping this very important cultural challenge in the former communist countries. This presupposes a process of reflection on the problem of suffering, of injustices suffered and committed. It is a profound human and religious problem which, if it is not faced seriously, could prevent the development of a true culture of reconciliation and of social fellowship. Without the painful but salvific process of a nation examining its conscience, such a development will be blocked for a long time. In particular, one will not have the new awareness or new culture of law which is an indispensable basis for democratic political culture and for civil harmony.

3.5.It is necessary to commit oneself to a new awareness of fundamental moral values; and here it is clear that Chrostian anthropology and the Church's social teaching are vitally important for the renewal of culture. The Church can contribute a great deal to a new awareness of the freedom and responsibility of the human person, to a sense of solidarity and commitment to the common good, to an ethos of work and to a culture of creativity, initiative and personal responsibility. In this field, the Church's particular contribution is in the formation of a culture of politics, social life and economy, geared to authentic moral values and not simply abandoned to the pragmatism of power or the laws of economics.

3.6.The aspiration of cultural and national identity is to be given a critical welcome. The Church places a high value on the heritage of national cultures and of nations, as communities which have developed historically, but strongly opposes any form of nationalism that exalts the nation as if it were a secularised religion. The Church emphasizes the fact that every nation is part of the community of peoples and owes its cultural riches to intercultural exchanges, something particularly clear in Central and Eastern Europe. Therefore, She is committed to the idea of the community of peoples and of nations, founded on respect and solidarity (cfr. the Holy Father's discourse to the UNO, 5 October, 1995).

3.7.In response to the challenges from sects and new religious movements it will be necessary to create places of lived Christian experience: in parishes, in Catholic Cultural Centres, in ecclesial movements, and to give people better access to the sources and traditions of authentic Christian spirituality. This demands clarity and discernment in doctrine, and an attitude of welcome and dialogue for people searching for meaning.

3.8.It is necessary to initiate and develop dialogue with the world of culture and science. Something significant has emerged from my experience over the past few years of meetings with specialists in the social sciences and culture: experts in these disciplines in particular were bound to the systems of dialectical and historical materialism. Now several have changed loyalties, while others still think according to the old systems. But some are sincerely searching for a fresh perspective, a new way of thinking, and are open to a vision of faith. It is here that the Church is called to offer help and support.

The same goes for artists. It was difficult to withdraw from the social role assigned to them by the communist system. Some have succeeded, and have thus created works of art of universal value, particularly in times of persecution and discrimination. For many, however, "socialist realism" in official art has precluded any exchange with the development of art elsewhere in the world or has limited useful collaboration. Here, too, the Church is called to share with artists the perspectives of a culture inspired by faith.

3.9.All this implies a theological, cultural and pastoral formation of the clergy, but also of the laity, that is engaged in the concrete cultural situation of the countries. In a special way, it is the laity, through their direct presence and through their responsibilites in the cultural and social fields, who will have to face the cultural challenges I have mentioned. In this context, the universities and Catholic faculties, Catholic Cultural Centres, and pastoral and academic chaplaincies in universities are particularly important (cfr. the document The Presence of the Church in the University and in University Culture, Vatican City 1994).

4. Initiatives of the Pontifical Council for Culture

4.1.In order to promote the dialogue between faith and culture in the world, the Pontifical Council for Culture has taken a census of Catholic Cultural Centres world-wide and published a first international directory towards the end of last year. Some Central and Eastern European countries already figure in this list. A second edition is now being prepared with updated and more extensive information. On the basis of this information there are plans to hold meetings of Catholic Cultural Centres in different parts of the world.

4.2.From 13 to 14 May, 1996, in Munich, this Dicastery organized the first meeting of Catholic Cultural Centres in various countries and regions of Central Europe, on the theme The Dialogue between faith and culture in Central Europe. Between culture and the Christian heritage. The twenty-six people who took part came from Austria, Germany, Italy/Alto Adige, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. The meeting showed the great usefulness and urgency of such an exchange, which responds to a real need of Catholic Cultural Centres. At present, a similar meeting is being planned for autumn next year, on the theme of culture and Christian values in Central and Eastern Europe.

4.3.In order to promote the Church's reflection and pastoral action with regard to culture, this Dicastery is preparing its next Plenary Assembly, scheduled for March 1997, on the theme Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture. The preparatory questionnaire follows three points: "What vision of man? What culture? What pastoral approach to culture?" It is meant to promote a systematic and concrete reflection in this field of vital importance for the Church, with its many challenges.

At Maribor, the Holy Father stated: "This is the hour of truth for Europe." The hour of truth is always the hour of the Church, called to open new horizons of faith and culture for a new Europe, on the threshold of the Third Millennium.


Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura

El 7 de noviembre pasado, con ocasión de la apertura del nuevo año académico, Juan Pablo II se ha dirigido al Rector Magnífico de la Pontificia Universidad Lateranense con un mensaje importante, de inspiración auténticamente pastoral, acompañada de una mirada esperanzadora y serena sobre la realidad cultural, en cuyo seno la luz alentadora que mana de la eterna sabiduría cristiana va preparando nuevas vías de evangelización e instrumentos idóneos para afrontar el nuevo milenio.

«Por ser generadora de cultura, la fe en Jesucristo lleva en sí, al mismo tiempo, la exigencia de extenderse a todos los ámbitos de lo humano y a los diversos sectores del conocimiento, para manifestar en ellos la luz intelectiva que ilumina todas las realidades y las diversas situaciones en las que se debate el hombre, así como la energía moral necesaria para avanzar por la senda de la verdad y del bien en cualquier circunstancia y vicisitud de la vida humana» (L'Osservatore Romano. Edición semanal en lengua española, nº 46 [1.455], 15–XI–1996, p. 4 [588]).

Diseminados por los caminos del panorama cultural están los centros culturales católicos; hoy la Iglesia italiana los redescubre como uno de sus instrumentos más atractivos, pues, en su rica diversidad, despliegan generosamente una acción capilar, haciendo llegar la novedad perenne del Evangelio, con una presencia constructiva y formativa, a todos los ámbitos de lo humano.

Desde esta perspectiva, el Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura ha organizado en el Vaticano, del 21 al 23 de octubre pasados, un primer encuentro de centros culturales católicos italianos, reuniendo a los directores de trece centros, elegidos en colaboración con la Comisión Episcopal para la Educación Católica, la Cultura, la Escuela y la Universidad de la Conferencia Episcopal Italiana. El objetivo del encuentro era desarrollar el conocimiento recíproco entre los diversos centros culturales, dar un impulso a la comunicación entre los mismos y hacer un intercambio de experiencias y de informaciones sobre el diálogo fe–cultura.

La iniciativa nace de un hecho significativo e inesperado: el impresionante número de centros de que se ha tenido noticia a resultas del laborioso trabajo de catalogación de los mismos. Del norte al sur de Italia hay más de 600 entidades culturales de este tipo, presentes en el 65% de las diócesis italianas, trabajando por la difusión de la cultura católica y por un diálogo fecundo entre la fe y la cultura. La lista ha sido publicada en un Elenco Nazionale, editado por Città Nuova, y presentado por el Cardenal Poupard en el curso del encuentro. El volumen se ofrece al público junto con la pequeña obra colectiva: I Centri Culturali Cattolici. Idea, esperienza, missione (con artículos de G. Balconi, P. Chenis, E. Kapellari, A. Matabosch, P. Poupard e I. Štuhec).

En el encuentro estaban representados, por parte del Norte de Italia, dos centros de Milán: el Centro Culturale San Fedele (P. Eugenio Bruno) y el Centro Culturale di Milano (Prof. Camillo Fornasieri); dos centros del Trivéneto: el Centro Culturale «G. Toniolo» de Verona (Mons. Rino Furri) y el Centro Culturale «B. Clesio» de Trento (Mons. Silvio Franck); y de Génova el Centro Culturale «L'Arcipelago» (Profª M. Adelaide Raschini). El centro de Italia estaba representado por el Centro San Domenico de Bolonia (P. Michele Casali), el Centro Culturale Cattolico de Prato (Rvdo. D. Giuseppe Billi), el Centro «Aletti» de Roma (P. Marco Rupnik), y el Istituto Marchigiano «J. Maritain» de Ancona (Prof. Trifogli). Finalmente, del Sur y las islas estuvieron la Associazione «Amici della Biblioteca Pubblica Arcivescovile "A. De Leo"» (Prof. Giacomo Carito), la Associazione «Oltre il Chiostro» de Nápoles (P. Giuseppe Reale), el Centro Cittadino di Cultura Cristiana de Messina (P. Antonino Di Vincenzo), y la Scuola di Fede e Coscienza politica de Cagliari (Mons. Vasco Paradisi).

En su intervención, el Cardenal Poupard agradeció la colaboración fructífera entre la Comisión Episcopal citada —presidida por S.E. Mons. Egidio Caporello— y el Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura, gracias a la cual ha sido posible el encuentro. Destacó además...

« importancia capital de los centros culturales católicos y de su actividad capilar, en orden al proyecto cultural orientado en sentido cristiano que ha emprendido la Conferencia Episcopal Italiana. [...] Los centros culturales católicos son los verdaderos areópagos del diálogo entre la fe y la cultura, los puntos de referencia y los lugares privilegiados para la encarnación concreta del proyecto en la variada —y a veces difícil— realidad cultural italiana: trabajando en contacto directo con las personas, en un contexto cultural específico y bien conocido, desarrollan múltiples actividades de diálogo, de formación, de investigación, en la perspectiva de un encuentro renovado entre la fe y la cultura actual, y en el horizonte de un gran esfuerzo por la reevangelización de Italia».

Mons. Caporello destacó que esta primera reunión, organizada en un momento favorable por su relación al proyecto cultural de los obispos, expresa también la exigencia de comunión de los centros culturales católicos italianos. Ellos son las fuerzas vivas que —tanto a nivel local como nacional— encarnan de modo creativo la reflexión y la acción cultural en orden a la evangelización. Una labor abierta, de frontera y flexible, insustituible y admirable en su diversidad, con una amplia repercusión que asume plenamente los desafíos planteados por la cultura contemporánea para orientarla según la pureza y la profundidad del mensaje evangélico, que transforma las culturas y las nutre de humanidad.

El P. Casali, del Centro San Domenico de Bolonia, hizo memoria del comienzo de la andadura del centro, y de cómo se ha desarrollado desde entonces en fidelidad a la intuición inicial:

«Nos propusimos seguir la antigua y sabia lección evangélica, de sembrar con continuidad, con perseverancia, con los ojos abiertos al presente y al futuro. Teniendo confianza en el hombre —éste ha de ser el elemento característico—, con mucha confianza en el hombre, porque incluso en los momentos de oscuridad Dios ama al hombre. [...] Imitando al Maestro, que se limita sólo a llamar a la puerta, hemos dado con amor, con el amor que propone y comparte, y no con el fanatismo que tiene pretensiones, respetando la libertad que la magnificencia del Señor ha dado antes que nada a todo hombre y que hay que salvaguardar a toda costa. [...] Ahora, 26 años después, seguimos estando aquí. Ya no somos jóvenes, pero hacemos todavía planes para el futuro, un futuro cuyo fundamento vislumbramos que ha de ser una educación que forme a la civilización, a las virtudes humanas, que son la gran base para vivir con respeto el anuncio y la escucha».

En la segunda jornada participaron algunos ponentes invitados que aportaron su propia experiencia y perspectiva. Mons. Paolino Schiavon, párroco de San Gregorio Barbarigo en Roma, describió con agudeza la colaboración entre parroquias y centros culturales católicos:

«La parroquia está llamada principalmente a preparar y cultivar las "vocaciones laicales", adultas en la fe, enraizadas en el presente —y dejándose interrogar por él— que cultiven el aprecio por la inteligencia y que vivan una fe amiga de la razón, sin miedo a plantearse preguntas y a dar respuestas. [...] A muchos de los hombres de hoy, antes que invitarlos al templo, se les puede encontrar en el terreno de una "cultura" que ofrece una rica toma de conciencia de los valores. Por esto creo que las instituciones culturales ya consolidadas —al igual que aquéllas más modestas pero que están más en contacto con la gente y son más operativas en las circunstancias concretas de la mentalidad corriente— tienen hoy, de modo particular, el papel de ayudar a "pensar". Opino que los centros culturales no se pueden concebir sólo como canales transmisores de una cultura prefabricada para favorecer un intercambio, sino que hay que verlos también como lugares en los que la gente, con la ayuda de especialistas, se acostumbre a pensar "a lo grande". [...] Ser, en suma, más que una retaguardia moralística, una vanguardia profética»

El P. Bruno, del Centro San Fedele de Milán, ofreció en su ponencia una reflexión sobre educar a pensar bien, según el estilo de Blas Pascal, poniendo al mismo tiempo de relieve los interrogantes profundos que emergen de la situación cultural actual:

«Hoy en día constatamos que la involución de las reflexiones científicas, el imponerse de nuevos problemas materiales de carácter más inmediato y urgente, el contacto con otras religiones menos exigentes que la católica en el plano disciplinar, y las incomprensiones por parte del mundo cristiano, han difundido en la mayor parte de las personas un sentido de autosuficiencia que considera a la religión como un hecho privado en todos los sentidos. Se tiene la sensación de que en la mayor parte de las personas el sentido cristiano de la vida es ignorado, o está adormecido —si es que no está apagado o sofocado por las exigencias dominantes de un bienestar material— y debilitado por la ignorancia de la doctrina cristiana.

«Por eso, a quien encontramos, le decimos: ¡Tú puedes pensar! ¡Tú puedes formarte tus propias opiniones! ¡Tú puedes ser libre, puedes descubrir valores que te convenzan y que te den paz al practicarlos! [...] Pero, pensar ¿qué? Elegir ¿qué? ¿cómo? En consecuencia, en nuestro centro a la gente les ponemos delante obras de arte, cuadros, espectáculos cinematográficos y teatrales, conferencias y personas expertas en las diversas ramas del saber, e invitamos a los espectadores a reaccionar de modo personal, y, sobre todo, a buscar la verdad, de modo coherente y leal.»

El Prof. Guzmán Carriquiry, Secretario del Consejo Pontificio para los Laicos, centró su atención sobre la importancia de destacar el papel y la aportación de los laicos:

«Los centros culturales católicos presuponen —y expresan— la exigencia de un testimonio y de una propuesta lúcida de la razonabilidad de la fe; es decir, de una correspondencia entre el evento cristiano y la dignidad y el bien del hombre. La fe de los laicos con frecuencia aparece como poco fundada, poco informada e instruida, poco educada. Hoy se ataca a la razonabilidad de la fe, por parte de diversas modalidades de "fideísmo", caractarizadas por ímpetus "espirituales" entusiastas, a los cuales les falta con frecuencia una conexión adecuada con el presupuesto y las exigencias de la razón. [...]

«Por otra parte, asisitimos a una tendencia de los fieles que consiste en escoger —bajo la presión del poder y del ambiente— del "menú" de la tradición, del "credo" de la Iglesia católica, de su doctrina y de su moral, seleccionando lo que a cada uno le parece para componer una "mezcla" propia, desde un subjetivismo relativista, una vez que ha caducado la verdad, cediendo el paso a opiniones irracionales en el ámbito del "supermercado" sociocultural.

«Por ello es cada vez más importante que los cristianos sepan dar razón —y razones— de la esperanza que hay en ellos. Los centros culturales católicos expresan una responsabilidad en orden a la verdad, que es connatural a la razón humana, que la exalta y la estimula en la labor de darse y de dar buenas razones, que la abre al misterio, que la ilumina y la lleva a plenitud con el don de la revelación de Dios. Los centros culturales católicos son una realidad crucial para la formación de los christifideles laici de hoy».

Esta misma idea la expresó también Mons. Vasco Paradisi, de Cagliari:

«Habiendo llegado a su ocaso las certezas históricas del pasado, es indispensable una gran dosis de fantasía para inventar en todo momento modelos nuevos en el ejercicio de un ministerio que permanece invariable en su sustancia. Esta inventiva será posible en la medida en que cada uno esté preparado para el ejercicio de su función específica. Y dado que lo específico de la vocación laical está llamado a realizarse precisamente en la relación entre comunidad eclesial y sociedad civil, es a los laicos a quienes hay que dirigir principalmente la atención».

Por lo tanto —como recuerda Mons. Giovanni Balconi, de la diócesis de Milán— los centros culturales católicos están al servicio de la evangelización, con su propio método cultural, que no hay que confundir con el método propio de la catequesis:

«Los centros culturales católicos se mueven en un terreno de frontera. El mundo cultural se ha convertido en una especie de nebulosa en la cual confluyen la indiferencia, la secularización, el gnosticismo, el escepticismo, el eclecticismo, la desconfianza con respecto a la ética y a los valores. Ante la heterogeneidad del "planeta" de la cultura, los centros culturales católicos tienden puentes en diversas direcciones: tienen un papel de mediación con la alta cultura académica, se hacen cargo de un amplio abanico de problemáticas —antiguas y nuevas—, dando respuesta a las expectativas y a la ansiedad de la gente; van abriendo poco a poco rendijas de esperanza —o la puerta— a la trascendencia; se ofrecen como bisagra de diálogo, no sólo con los creyentes, sino también con todos los que, por cualquier motivo, están lejos o se han alejado de la fe; y van elaborando una cultura popular, que en Italia siempre ha encontrado terreno fértil para arraigar y para granar».

Mons. Franc Rodé, Secretario del Consejo de la Cultura, recordó en la conclusión de las jornadas que los centros culturales católicos son capaces de dialogar en el terreno de la cultura, gracias al vigor de un generoso voluntariado cultural, con gente de frontera, allí donde la Iglesia no alcanza, proponiendo, no imponiendo, escuchando y acogiendo a las personas en búsqueda de sentido y de verdad:

«Las coordenadas en que se sitúan los centros vienen dadas por tres binomios: autonomía y coordinación mutua; pluralidad y unidad; laicidad y eclesialidad. Dan respuesta a las expectativas de la gente, dan valor a lo que tiene de positivo la cultura contemporánea —sin perder por ello conciencia de la insuficiencia del pensamiento moderno— y al mismo tiempo dan testimonio de la enorme riqueza de la herencia cristiana. En este final de milenio —y de toda una época— los centros culturales católicos ofrecen con valentía la riqueza que les es propia: en ellos se forjan reflexiones e ideas para aportar respuestas que den un fundamento a la razonabilidad de la fe, para crear una nueva civilización basada en la esperanza, para difundir la caridad en su dimensión intelectual. Una obra que es, ciertamente, de primer orden en el seno de la Iglesia».

Del encuentro surgieron una serie de propuestas operativas en orden al diálogo entre fe y cultura, de las cuales se responsabilizarán la Conferencia Episcopal Italiana y el Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura según sus competencias respectivas. Se decidió en primer lugar emitir un comunicado y preparar unas actas, que serán entregadas a la Secretaría y a la Presidencia de la Conferencia Episcopal Italiana, conectando así la realidad de los centros culturales católicos con el proyecto cultural orientado en sentido cristiano que ha emprendido el episcopado italiano. En segundo lugar, se creará un grupo de contacto informal, a nivel nacional, como estructura ágil y flexible. Con este grupo se irán luego dando pasos con vistas a una mayor institucionalización, cuya forma y modalidad se irá estudiando. Se da por tanto una gran importancia a la exigencia de comunión entre los centros culturales católicos. Además, se iniciará la publicación de una revista informativa que permita el contacto con realidades culturales de diverso tipo, tanto italianas como internacionales.