Calls to “Resist Europe’s secularization” made at Taizé youth meeting

The Presbyterian Outlook

(ENI) — Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, a spiritual leader who represents Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has urged young Christians to resist secularization in Europe in a message to an ecumenical meeting that was greeted by global and regional leaders.

“After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe no longer recognizes the place for Christianity that history dedicated to it — it is as if Christianity were being expelled from the history of Europe,” said Bartholomeos I, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

The patriarch made his appeal in a message sent to a five-day European Youth Meeting, organized by France’s ecumenical Taizé Community in Poznan, Poland.

“We wish to recall here that the identity of Europe is primarily Christian and cannot be considered without this legacy,” he said in his message to the

December 29 – January 2 gathering. “The secularization of Europe here takes the form of a rejection of the God of history. Nonetheless, the mobilization of Christians throughout Europe is an important initiative recalling the Christian roots of this continent, its identity and its values.”

Bartholomeos noted the emergence of “golden calves” marked by a tendency to sacrifice “justice, equality, and freedom on the altar of consumerism.” He said Europe should remember the part played by churches in its recent history, at a time when secularization was denying “the sacredness of the world, breaking the link that exists between God, man and creation.”

The Patriarch said, “Europe has just commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event not possible without the mobilization of Christians.

“From the non-violent demonstrations organized by the Protestant churches of Leipzig; to international efforts by the Pope of Rome, John Paul II, who kept on crying out ‘Do not fear’; through the mobilization of Orthodox churches inside and outside the Soviet bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall is not only the end of a historical sequence or a purely political event; its greatness is ecumenical.”

A Taizé Community statement said that more than 30,000 young Europeans turned out for meeting, the 32nd since 1978. They were accommodated at 150 Roman Catholic parishes in Poland’s Wielkopolska region.

Taizé’s German prior, Brother Alois Loser, urged participants, who were most numerous from Poland, Germany, France, and Ukraine, to show solidarity with persecuted Christians in China. There the Taizé Community is distributing one million Bibles, he said. He also called on participants to work for “changes” in social structures as well as for greater justice in the world’s economic and financial system.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in his message to the gathering said humanity had been “defaced and injured by false ideas of wealth, by false ideas of security, by false ideas of freedom.”

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I, for his part, said Europe’s future will depend on young people’s readiness to promote “justice, Christian morality, and the idea of the common good.”

At the same time, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the meeting’s emphasis on social issues, and called for “collective action to change the world for the better.”

The Poznan meeting was the fourth such Taizé gathering organized in predominantly Catholic Poland, and will be followed in December by a meeting
in Rotterdam.


  1. George Michalopulos :

    now this is more like it. my only regret is that the EP did not mention the heroic efforts of the MP during the last days of the Soviet Union. Especially when Alexei II bravely stood down the Soviet troops trying to overthrow the democratically-elected government. Still, it’s much better than the Hopenhagen twaddle of the last decade or so.

  2. Michael Bauman :

    It’s a positive, but what I like most about the article is the way the EP is described: “…a spiritual leader who represents Eastern Orthodoxy.” Quite refreshing from the normal papal-like description don’t you think?

  3. Michael Bauman :

    Although on the negative side, the emphasis on ‘social justice’ really bothers me. That is not, strictly speaking, the job of the Church. If we go down that road, we really are likely to loose the eschcatological focus that is such a central part of Holy Tradition.

    As Fr. Alexander Schmemann said in “For the Life of the World” (paraphrase) The Church is not here to help, she is here to save.

    We must resist the urge to lapse into chiliastic utopianism or Jesus Christ as Lord, God and Savior is forgotten.

    • Exactly right, Michael. When those in the Church abandon their God-given mandate, they are both disobedient and ineffective (which, I know, is almost redundant). This is not to deny the importance of justice (though that is almost never what they really mean by that term) or charity or outreach. Far from it. Individuals may indeed be called to such efforts. (William Wilberforce would be a good example.) But the focus of the Church as Church must always be to serve God and His holy kingdom. The moment she follows some other Light in the name of expediency or effectiveness, she abandons her first and true love. This is why Mother Theresa rightly eschewed any concern with “results.” Samuel Gregg wrote an excellent article last month entitled Not So Liberating: The Twilight of Liberation Theology that directly addresses this very issue. In it he noted that

      there’s little question that liberation theology was a disaster for Catholic evangelization. There’s a saying in Latin America that sums this up: “The Church opted for the poor, and the poor opted for the Pentecostals.”

      In short, while many Catholic clergy were preaching class war, many of those on whose behalf the war was supposedly being waged decided that they weren’t so interested in learning about Marx or listening to a language of hate. They simply wanted to learn about Jesus Christ and his love for all people (regardless of economic status). They found this in many evangelical communities.

  4. Thumbs Up! I am holding out hope there has been a ideological shift at the Phanar and 79th Street. Somebody new must be doing the writing these days. The tone is different. Lets hope the the Green Crowd has been retired for good.

  5. George Michalopulos :

    One can only hope, Andrew. Michael: spot on! “Social justice” is just a ruse and those who proclaim it are usually moral poseurs.

  6. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I’m not so sure we are seeing any ideological shift. It may be nothing more than simple pragmatism, the realization that the Hellenism as ethnic identity apologetic is 1) incomprehensible to those outside the fold; and 2) not gaining the political traction in the Orthodox world its defenders hoped it would (witness the near universal disdain of Fr. Elpidophoros’ political offensive at Holy Cross Seminary last year, and the polite but thorough repudiation of the Canon 28 apologetic at Chambésy).

    What this indicates is that Constantinople is more sensitive to criticism and more aware of their tenuous place in the Orthodox world than they let on. Not until the Hellenism as ethnic identity apologetic is abandoned can anyone be sure that a shift in thinking has really taken place. More likely is that the apologetic will be promulgated with a bit more finesse than we saw with Fr. Elpidophoros’ clumsy mishandling at Holy Cross (although it remains an open question whether such finesse can be mastered). If you see it promulgated in-house (which is the only place you will see it from here on out, in my opinion), rest assured nothing has changed except the approach.

    Of course this begs the larger question of whether such an approach can ultimately succeed. I don’t think it can. Subsuming the universal principles of Hellenism to ethnic identity can’t coexist with the Gospel imperative to preach Christ to all nations. It simply won’t work. It can only lead to the elevation of personages who draw their putative authority from an institutional structure that will necessarily become increasingly authoritarian.

    So while I can understand the relief some might feel seeing the Ecumenical Patriarch finally address larger social concerns than, say, defense of the Greek language (which is worth defending, by the way), take a closer look at the language he employed while speaking at Taizé. Yes, the fall of the Berlin wall was an example of the mobilization of Christians, but it was much more than that. It started with the rediscovery of Christ in ways that led to the repudiation of the Marxist man in Poland years before, largely through the words and example of Pope John Paul II, as well as the brilliant diplomacy of Pres. Ronald Reagan and PM Margaret Thatcher. It was not a mere political mobilization, it was the working of God through an oppressed people.

    And, yes, consumerism and everything else on the list are grave social ills. But the rediscovery of authentic humanity will occur only with the rediscovery of Christ whose words can actually be found in the foundational narrative of Western Civilization. Secularism binds one to the stomach, but words can penetrate even this grave enslavement. But a program against consumerism won’t heal the ill because it cannot uncover the narrative that points to the ultimate narrative that, once preached and heard, reveals the Healer.

    The words that the Patriarch spoke at Taizé, like his words to Americans several months back, are bound to the limits of the political discourse. Europeans and Americans need to hear more than the vocabulary of social, economic, or political justice. They need to hear the Gospel.

    From where I sit, Hellenism as ethnicity is alive and well. All that has changed is that political and cultural reality that gave birth to the apologetic five hundred years ago does not exist anymore. The present effort is merely the attempt to universalize the apologetic into a global context. Yet the policy had its costs even half a century ago as Sir Steven Runciman noted in Nationalism and Greek Orthodoxy.

    • An excellent analysis Father. Although I want to believe things are better they are probably not.

      Here is another thing to consider. The Taize letter probably does not get the scrutiny by special ethnic and political interests in-house that other EP statements do. Remember you do not see this letter on any of the websites that 79th Street manages. It is amazing 79th filters EP statements to the point Orthodox Christians find these statements not on their own websites but on Protestant and ecumenical sites.

      I would also agree with you Father than while we may all hold out hope for change -we also have to be honest. The same people who have given us all type of shenanigans are still the people who peddle influence at the Phanar and GOA. I do think these people are becoming more aware of the criticism out there and may refine their words and marketing but there is no reason to expect any substantial change in the coming year.

  7. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    A lot of information gets filtered. Notice how quickly any mention of the Copenhagen Protocols disappeared when the criticism started? How that initiative ever got into the mix still baffles me.

    The communications revolution affects the Church too. A lot of people don’t understand that yet, however — to their peril, ISTM.

    • The worst Hopehagen stunt was that letter issued by the EP saying that passing Copehagen was repentance in action.

  8. Geo Michalopulos :

    Agreed, but I’m still trying to be hopeful. It’s possible that this latest stunt by +Spyridon will blow open the lid on My-Big-Fat-Greekism (not Hellenism) which the GOA has been trying to contain this last decade. What do y’all think? Eventually, it’s going to have to be addressed, or the GOA will continue to atrophy.

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