The Holy See
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Faro (Portugal)
Friday 28 October 2005


The Holy See pays a tribute to the work accomplished by the European Cultural Convention in the past 50 years. For its own part, it has never ceased to support the initiatives of the Council of Europe in order that Europeans recognize their patrimony, common yet different, to foster mobility and exchanges with a view to a better knowledge and mutual understanding and to support the widespread trend of cultural cooperation between peoples, targets that the Convention established.
Challenges Europe must face

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Convention for Cultural Cooperation is an invitation to reflect on what new goals to set in order to respond to the challenges Europe is facing at the beginning of this new millennium:  the ceaselessly evolving historical and cultural context, induced by the new forms of behaviour and changes of various kinds.

The fundamental goal, however, has always been the same:  to build a city worthy of the human being. To do this means ensuring that Europeans do not become indifferent to universal human values and that they are attentive to everything that might achieve their transmission.

The crisis of values that is spreading among entire classes of the population, especially among the young, is posing serious questions. The temptation of exacerbated nationalism that stems from feeling a loss of identity, the side effects of fundamentalism connected with the humiliation felt by certain believers, withdrawal into communitarianism provoked by the hardship of certain groups in contemporary society, and the risk of an inhumane application of certain scientific and technological innovations are some of the many challenges that demand urgent and judicious responses, for fear of a serious upheaval in our societies.

The role of culture and intercultural exchanges, the preservation of the cultural patrimony and the goods that convey it, the importance of educational programmes in schools and universities, the responsibility of the mass media and the respect they owe to reliable information and the dignity of the human person, as well as the contribution of institutions particularly qualified to encourage social coherence, demand the special attention of the Council of Europe. Wherever necessary, the Council of Europe is duty bound to defend the cultural rights proper to every people, even a minority.

Only a Europe with peaceful social coexistence and the exchange of cultural riches, both material and non-material, will be able to be featured as the common house of all Europeans, in which each and every one is accepted and feels at home, no one is subject to discrimination but all are required to live as responsible members of one great family of peoples.

Christianity has been an essential factor of unity among peoples and cultures. For two millennia, it has never ceased to promote an integral vision of the human being and human rights, and the history of the nations of the Continent as a whole attests to its extraordinary cultural fruitfulness.

Eager to honour the modern requirement of a proper secularism of States, and hence of Europe with all its religious and secular elements running counter to a reductive secularism that inspires certain policies, the Holy See reaffirms its willingness and the ability of religions to help build the common European home, contributing in particular to remedy the challenge of social disintegration and to give meaning to life and to history.

Did not European modernism, which gave the world the ideal of democracy, the meaning of the dignity of every human person and his or her inalienable rights, find in the crucible of Christianity the loftiest values in its 1,000-year-old culture, the heir to Greek thought, in the Roman institutions and in many other cultural contributions, particularly the Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, German and Slav?

In the period subsequent to the Second World War, the Fathers of Europe courageously pointed out the challenge of "justice without freedom". Today, an equally ruinous "utopia" threatens our societies with disintegration:  the indifference that relativizes everything, advances nothing and, masked by its appearance of tolerance, endangers the humanity of men and women.

To confront this new challenge together at the dawn of the third millennium, to build Europe as a human community, means giving the European Cultural Convention a new impetus, to which, for its part, the Holy See fully intends to contribute.