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Pope's response to European Synod: “Ecclesia in Europa”

The big religious news story around the world this morning is coverage of the Pope's response to the European Synod of Bishops. Most of the secular coverage highlights his comments on no relaxation on celibacy but there is much more in this document.

The long delayed post-Synodal response to the meeting of the European Bishops in October 1999 was published on the weekend. The media around the world has tended to focus on the Pope's comment that there will be no relaxation in priestly celibacy although some media have also focussed on the Pope's push to have Christianity better recognised in the new Consitution for the European Union. This lengthy exhortation and reflection contains much more than those two subjects though.

Underlying the whole document is a deep call for the Church to rekindle hope in the human heart. The Pope spends considerable time discussing the seeming "the loss of Europe's Christian memory and heritage".

He says this loss "is accompanied by a kind of fear of the future. Tomorrow is often presented as something bleak and uncertain. The future is viewed more with dread than with desire. Among the troubling indications of this are the inner emptiness that grips many people and the loss of meaning in life. The signs and fruits of this existential anguish include, in particular, the diminishing number of births, the decline in the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the difficulty, if not the outright refusal, to make lifelong commitments, including marriage."

The exhortation seeks to explore the many areas of human endeavour the Church engages in where a sense of hope might be restored. The early part of the document is a theological reflection on Christ as the source of our most profound sense of hope.

One interesting inclusion in the overall context of the document is a section entitled "Training for an adult faith" which almost seems to underline that the Church has not been doing this.

His Holiness writes: "Europe's cultural and religious situation today calls for the presence of Catholics who are adult in their faith and for missionary Christian communities who testify to God's love before all mankind. The proclamation of the Gospel of hope thus implies a concern to foster the movement from a faith supported by social tradition, important as this is, to a more personal and adult faith, one marked by knowledge and conviction.

The full text of the exhortation can be found at the Vatican website link below or a better version for printing is probably the one at the Zenit website. We have also included below a selection of headlines from around the world showing how the secular media have been covering the release of this document. Most media though have tended to pick up on the celibacy headline rather than the one concerning the European Constitution.


ZENIT VERSION (More printer friendly):

BBC: Pope presses EU on constitution
Reuters: Pope Urges Place for Christ in EU Constitution
AP: Vatican Says Celibacy Rule Non-negotiable
Reuters: Pope Says Celibacy Rule for Priests Will Stay
NYPost: Pope: celibacy still rules
UPI/Washington Times: Pope says priests must remain celibate
Japan Today: Vatican says celibacy rule non-negotiable
Toronto Star, Canada: Vatican insists on priestly celibacy

30 Jun 2003