The European Union that is identifiable with the Brussels bureaucracy is an apple that rolled very far from the tree of its founding fathers, Zsolt Semjén said.

At the international conference entitled St. Pope John Paul II and the Renewal of Christian Europe, the politician stressed: it is a common misunderstanding on the part of the leaders of the European Union that Europe is based on Greek culture, Roman law and Jewish-Christian ethics. Christianity is not some building block in a cathedral, but it is the cathedral itself. Christianity built European civilisation from the building stones of Greek culture, Roman law and Germanic state organisation.

He said: John Paul II made it clear in his teaching that Europe is not a Christian museum, Christian civilisation is not some museum piece left behind from the old ages that is worthy of admiration, but is living reality.

The Pope’s entire career, profession of faith and missionary trips were based on the idea that the “civilisational miracle” which Christianity created must be refilled once again with living faith.

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Regarding the relationship between Christianity and nations, he pointed out: these two things are not only not contrary to one another, but constitute a reality in which one cannot exist without the other. “Every nation is God’s unrepeatable idea, and therefore those who walk away from the most crucial issues of their homeland in this world are also unfaithful to the homeland in heaven.”

Catholicism, but even Protestantism is older than most of the EU Member States: this testifies to the fact that Christianity did not smother nations, but made the evolution and development of national existence possible, he said. He reiterated: according to John Paul II, we must avoid two mistakes related to nations. One of them is internationalism which denies the fact that national existence is a value, while the other one is chauvinism which calls into question the right of every nation to exist.

In the context of the relationship of the European Union and the nation states, he drew attention to the fact that while there are European peoples, there is no such thing as a European Union people. This kind of dual identity was characteristic of the Roman Empire whose citizens were members of their own nations and citizens of the empire at once.

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The establishment of such a dual, imperial identity – which Brussels at times openly aspires to create – is contrary to the intentions of the founding fathers who created the European Union in order for it to serve the survival of European nations, rather than seeking to turn European nations to the service of the European Union as an empire, Mr Semjén said.

Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest said in his lecture: among the basic tenets of John Paul II, we may find the idea that the Eastern and Western halves of the continent constitute the totality of Europe, and that Christianity represents the cultural and moral foundations of the continent whose values can be traced – even if in a more secular form now – in the lives and official structure of the European peoples.

At the same time, the values of Christianity become truly fertile for Europe if they are reattached to their original religious foundations and starting point. This „may create a fertile medium for human ennoblement and cultural richness which may have a mission for the whole of humanity”, the cardinal said.

He reiterated: the most representative summary of the teachings of John Paul II regarding Europe is the apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europe. This document is about “the loss of Christian memory and fear of the future as our continent’s specific features”, about indifference and individualism, and about the aspirations which “attempt to present European culture independently of the Christian heritage which determined its own specific historical development and universal spread”.

John Paul II designated a path of hope in returning to Christ, and warned that in Europe we need, on the one hand, “the renewal of the preaching of the gospel among the masses who are religiously indifferent”, and on the other hand, we also need evangelisation in the strict sense of the word among those who have not been christened, Mr Erdő said.

He said that, according to the Pope, our testimony must also be manifested in the dialogues we conduct with other religions. It must further also extend to the evangelisation of culture, and as part of this, Catholic schools as well as academic and university work play an important role.

It is also important to appreciate church cultural assets as these „cultural values are the living witnesses of the faith we have been professing for centuries” which „may serve as effective tools for the new evangelisation”, the cardinal cited the document.

Member of the European Parliament Kinga Gál, Vice-President of the European People’s Party took the view that the man of today must seek out the values which previously stood the test of times, and in this uncertainty, young people are most at risk.

Young people, and in particular, those who are disadvantaged, desire recognition and want to belong somewhere. The key issue today is who will give them this first: “we, or those who teach them extreme ideologies coming from outside”.

Parents, politicians, churches and civil society must unite their efforts in order to teach young people “a steady life that is based on Christian faith”, she stressed.

Ján Figel, Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion and belief outside the EU, former EU Commissioner highlighted in his lecture the bridge role of St. Pope John Paul II: the Pope was able to build a bridge between East and West, between North and South, and equally between Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Zsolt Barthel-Rúzsa, President of the Századvég Foundation, organiser of the conference said in his welcome speech: according to the Foundation’s public opinion poll which was specifically conducted for this conference and sought to determine how widely John Paul II was known, John Paul II is better known and has a greater impact even among those who claim to be non-religious than Pope Francis or Pope Benedict XVI.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)