Biskopenes med budskap om håpets Evangelium i Europa

"We Joyfully Witness to the 'Gospel of Hope' in Europe"

May the God of life, of hope and of joy be with you all!

This is the greeting and the desire, which becomes prayer, offered by us bishops gathered in Synod, for you, brother and sister believers, and for all our fellow citizens of Europe.

This is also the challenge which faces all of us in our lives.

Hope Is Possible

1. Man cannot live without hope: life would become meaningless and unbearable. But every day this hope is weakened, attacked and destroyed by so many forms of suffering, anxiety and the death which cut through the heart of many Europeans and throughout our whole Continent. We cannot ignore this challenge. The Spirit of God, which conquers all despair, gives us a share in the "compassion" of Jesus towards the sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6,34). In this, he accompanies us and supports us with his love and sympathy to face the difficulties and dramas of so many men and women -- people in their later years, adults, young people and children -- deprived of health, education, work, house, homeland, and misunderstood and crushed in their fundamental right to life, equality, freedom, and peace.

Indeed, brothers and sisters, human beings cannot live without hope. But is it possible and who can give them this hope, when many hopes even in recent times have been so miserably dashed?

Enlightened by faith in Jesus Christ, with humble certainty, we know that we are not deceiving you when we say that hope is possible even today and that it is possible for all. In his fatherly love, God denies no one this possibility, for He desires the full happiness of all.

For this reason, with the joy and the authority of those who speak in the name of Christ the Lord who has sent us, we make ourselves ambassadors and witnesses of the "Gospel of Hope" for the whole of Europe. The words addressed by Saint Peter to the first Christians are the same words we address to you: "Have no dread ... have no fear. Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have" (I Pt 3,14-15).

We Believe in Jesus Christ, the One True Hope for Mankind and for History

2. We make this proclamation of hope from Rome, where we have been called by the Pope to a Synod, close to the tombs of the Apostles. This is the second Synod dedicated to Europe, one in which we have been engaged in prayer, reflection and discussion on the theme "Jesus Christ, Alive in his Church, Source of Hope for Europe". In the communion between ourselves as bishops, with the Holy Father and with all those who have taken part in this synodal gathering, we have lived a deep experience of faith and love in which we have sensed and tasted the presence of Jesus living and working in our midst, repeating as it were the spiritual experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24,13-35).

On the eve of the Great Jubilee of the new millennium, the eyes of our hearts have been fixed on Jesus, gazing upon his face, and we have been led, together with Peter, to profess again our faith with renewed enthusiasm: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (cf. Mt 16,16). You are the eternal Word of the Father, who, in the fullness of time, became one like us and for us (cf. Jn 1,14), born of the Virgin Mary (cf. Gal 4,4). You are the Bridegroom who loves and gives himself to his Church (cf. Eph 5, 25). You reveal the face of the Father to us (Jn 1,18). You are the Redeemer of mankind, the only Savior of the world.

From this confession of faith, which shares in and extends the unbroken faith of the Church of all peoples and all times, is born also in all of us a joyful confession of hope which is both irresistible and reassuring. Risen and living Lord, you are the ever new hope of the Church and of humanity. You are the one and true hope for the human family and for history. Already in this life and in the life to come, you are "among us the hope of glory" (Col 1,27). In you and with you, we find truth: our life has meaning, communion is possible, diversity can become richness, and the power of the Kingdom is at work in history and helps to build the city of mankind. Love gives an eternal value to human efforts. Suffering becomes salvific, life will conquer death, creation will share in the glory of the children of God.

All of this we profess in communion with you, brothers and sisters, who share with us the one faith in Jesus the Lord.

With you, to the Europe in which we live with love and which we see so thirsting for a hope often at risk of being frustrated, we say again the words which Pope John Paul II spoke at the beginning of our synodal work: "With the authority that comes from its Lord, the Church repeats to mankind today: Europe of the third millennium 'do not let your hands fall limp' (Zeph 3,16); do not give way to discouragement, to ways of thinking and living which have no future, for we place our sure hope in the Word of God!".

We Thank God for the Signs of Hope Present in the Church

3. As we proclaim the "Gospel of Hope" to you, guided by our listening to God's Word and attentive to the Spirit in reading the "signs of the times", we want to reassure you that the hope of which Jesus the Lord is the very source is no dream nor a utopia. Hope is real, because Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is Risen and is forever alive in his Church working for the salvation of mankind and society. Our hope is sure: its signs are concrete, visible and in some way tangible, because the Creator Spirit, which the Crucified and Risen Lord has left as his first gift to believers, is always present. He is the Lord, the giver of life, and even today works more effectively and better than we can in the heart of the Churches and in European society.

The Church, precisely because it is the Body and Bride of Jesus Christ "our hope" (I Tim 1,1), is, in its very self, the community of hope. It constantly receives from the Lord the grace and power to communicate hope even to the Europe of today. As we look at the everyday life of our Churches, we can recognize the many "signs of hope", both small and great, which spring from the life giving gift of the Spirit.

One "sign of hope" is the many martyrs of all Christian confessions, both from the West and from the East, who have lived in this century and even down to our present day. Their hope was stronger than death! We cannot nor would we wish to forget their witness. It is most precious and absolutely necessary for us all, for it reminds us that without the Cross there is no salvation, and without sharing in the love of Christ crucified, who forgives, there is no true Christian life.

Another "sign of hope" is the sheer holiness of so many men and women of our time, not only of those who have been officially recognized by the Church, but also those who in the simplicity of their daily lives, have lived out their fidelity to the Gospel with generous dedication.

Other "signs of hope" are:

- the rediscovered freedom of the Churches of Eastern Europe, due to the prophetic and decisive contribution of the Holy Father. This freedom has opened up new possibilities for pastoral work, thanks also to the resurgence of priestly and religious vocations, bringing new challenges for a more mature use of responsibility;

- the increased focus of the Church on its spiritual mission and its commitment to placing evangelization as the priority also in the dealings with social and political realities;

- the presence and the flowering of new movements and communities through which the Spirit awakens a Christian way of life more strongly marked by an evangelical radicalism and a missionary thrust;

- the unleashing of a renewed commitment to the Gospel and of generous readiness to serve, awakened by the same Spirit in the more traditional realities of the Church, such as in the parishes, among those in consecrated life, in associations of the lay faithful, in groups formed for prayer and the apostolate, and in the various communities of young people;

- the increased awareness of the co-responsibility which belongs to all Christians, in the variety and complementarity of their gifts, in the one mission of the Church;

- the growing presence and activity of women in the structures and life of the Christian community.

With a deep sense of gratitude to the Lord, we recognize as a "sign of hope", the steps forward on the ecumenical journey in truth, love and reconciliation, even in the face of great difficulties. We particularly welcome with satisfaction the "Common Declaration on Justification", which will be signed in Augsburg on 31 October 1999 by representatives of our Church and the World Lutheran Federation. After four centuries, we have reached a consensus on certain fundamental truths concerning this central aspect of our faith. We remember also the warm welcome given to the Holy Father in his recent visit to Romania.

Another "sign of hope" is the "exchange of gifts" between the Churches of the West and of the East which has been extended in these years to a mutual spiritual and pastoral enrichment, for a Church called to breathe with "both its lungs" and with one heart filled with the love of Christ and of his Spirit.

Turning to the Lord and Responding to Our Vocation

4. The Christian hope which we proclaim and witness to you, dear brothers and sisters, besides being possible and a concrete reality, is a gift and a responsibility for all of our Churches and communities and for each one of us.

In the light of this understanding, as one we must make a humble and courageous examination of conscience so that we can acknowledge our fears and our mistakes, confess with sincerity our slowness to believe, our omissions, our infidelities, and our faults.

But may our hearts be always filled with hope, in the certainty that the Father always forgives those who confess their sins, and he offers them a pressing call to conversion and renewal of life.

Do not be afraid! The serious indifference to religion of so many Europeans, the presence of many even in our Continent who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his Church and who are not baptized, the secularism which poisons a large section of Christians who habitually think, make decisions and live "as if Christ did not exist", far from extinguishing our hope, make this hope more humble and more able to trust in God alone. It is from his mercy that we receive the grace and call to conversion.

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, who make up the pilgrim people of God in the Europe of today and tomorrow, in the name of Christ, we confidently dare to say: Turn again to the Lord and respond with renewed fervor to the apostolic and missionary vocation received in Baptism! All of us - bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated and lay faithful, men and women - and each according to their gifts and responsibilities, let us dedicate our hearts and our lives to the great and wonderful task of working with Christ for the salvation, freedom, and happiness of everyone, and in particular of our brothers and sisters in Europe!

To you, the priests of our Churches of Europe, who with admirable dedication live the ministry entrusted to you, with gratitude and trust we address these words to you: Do not lose heart and do not allow yourselves to be overcome with weariness! In full communion with us bishops, persevere in your invaluable and indispensable ministry in joyful fraternity with your brother priests, and in generous collaboration with those in consecrated life and with all the lay faithful.

Brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us live out our responsibility with greater honesty and credibility, as we continue on our ecumenical journey with great trust. May we rediscover those bonds which unite us with our "elder brothers" of the Jewish faith; let us be open to a respectful and mature dialogue with those of other religions, intensifying our missionary mandate as we go out into the whole world (cf. Mt 28,19-20).

Called and Sent to Proclaim, Celebrate and Serve the "Gospel of Hope"

5. In order that Europe may realize the need of an encounter with Christ, the Holy Father repeatedly calls us to undertake with great zeal and urgency the task of the new evangelization. So let us not tire in our proclamation, celebration and service of the "Gospel of Hope"!

Let us proclaim the "Gospel of Hope"! In a world grown deaf to words and often incapable of having trust in anyone in whom we can believe, let us renew Peter's profession of faith: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life" (Jn 6,68). We, above all, entrust ourselves to this Word, read, meditated and prayed in the Sacred Scriptures. In our Churches, let us commit ourselves to giving a new impetus to this proclamation by the witness of our lives, to preaching, catechesis, theological research, religious culture, and to the dialogue between science and faith. Let us accompany those who seek baptism or who are already called to live it out in everyday life in demanding itineraries of faith. Let us teach them to receive the doctrine of the Church with openness and complete acceptance, so that our thinking and our behavior may be at one with the Gospel of Jesus.

Let us celebrate the "Gospel of Hope"! In a society and culture often closed to the transcendent, stifled by consumerist attitudes, enslaved by old and new idolatries, let us rediscover with awe the sense of "mystery". Let us renew our liturgical celebrations, so that they may be a more eloquent sign of the presence of Christ the Lord. Let us ensure new space for silence, prayer and contemplation. Let us return to the sacraments, especially to the Eucharist and to Penance, which are sources of salvation and of reconciliation, of freedom and of new hope.

Let us serve the "Gospel of Hope"! In a Europe closed in on itself by new forms of egoism, the only way to restore hope to the hopeless is by personal and communal works of active charity. In this, let us make a definitive choice for love! With a life which mirrors and witnesses to the God who is Love, let us open our hearts to welcome and care for every brother and sister in suffering or in fear, to the preferential love for the poor, and to the sharing of goods through a more simple way of life. Let us also open our love towards the conservation and development of creation, which is God's gift to us and to future generations. Let us open ourselves to the generous and responsible commitment to build the city of mankind in truth, justice, freedom, and solidarity, the sole and everlasting pillars for peaceful human co-existence.

Let Us Recognize the Signs of Hope Present Today in Europe

6. Our profession of hope invites us now to take a special look at Europe, at its complex geographical reality, but above all at its history and culture, which is inextricably bound up with Christianity. Once again, we look through the eyes of faith, which, even in the contradictions of history, enable us to discern the presence of God's Spirit renewing the face of the earth.

We are all faced by dramatic and disquieting situations which demonstrate the work of the spirit of evil and those who follow it. How can we forget all the ways in which fundamental human rights have been violated between persons, minorities, and peoples - especially "ethnic cleansing" and the prevention of refugees returning to their homes - with the enormous weight of injustice, violence, and death, which threatens our century in its closing years?

And yet in this same Europe there are events and reasons that give us cause for hope.

We joyfully recognize the growing openness of peoples to one another, the reconciliation between countries which have been hostile and at enmity with each other for a long time, the progressive opening up to the countries of Eastern Europe in the process of seeking deeper unity. Mutual recognition, collaboration and exchanges of all sorts are being developed, in such a way that, little by little, a culture, even a European consciousness, is being created. This we hope will encourage, especially among the young, a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood and the will to share.

We note as a very positive factor that the whole of this process is developing according to democratic procedures, in a peaceful way and in a spirit of freedom, which respects and values legitimate diversity, encouraging and sustaining the process towards the growing unity of Europe.

We welcome with satisfaction all that has been done to safeguard the conditions and ways to respect human rights.

Finally, in the context of the legitimate and necessary economic and political unity in Europe, while recognizing the signs of hope which are offered by the consideration given to rights and to the quality of life, we sincerely hope that, in creative fidelity to the humanist and Christian traditions of our Continent, there will be a guarantee of the primacy of ethical and spiritual values. This our wish springs from the firm conviction that there can be no true and fruitful unity in Europe which is not built on its spiritual foundations!

For all this, we thank God and we give credit to all those who work in the various institutions of Europe, for their openness to dialogue and collaboration with our Churches.

As Christians, we wish and we invite you to be committed Europeans, ready to make our contribution to the Europe of today and tomorrow, treasuring the precious heritage left us by the "founding fathers" of a united Europe.

The sincere love which, we Pastors, have for Europe moves us to address some appeals to those -- especially at the institutional, political and cultural level -- who have a specific responsibility for the future of our Continent:

-- do not be silent but raise your voices in the face of the violation of human rights of individuals, minorities and peoples, beginning with the right to religious freedom;

-- pay very special attention to everything that concerns life from the moment of its conception to natural death and the family based on marriage: these are the foundations on which our common European home rests;

-- pursue, with courage and urgency, the process of European integration, widening the circle of member countries of the Union, while appreciating with wisdom the historical and cultural differences of the nations, safeguarding the wholeness and unity of values which characterize Europe in a human and cultural sense;

-- respond, with justice and equity and with a great sense of solidarity, to the growing phenomenon of migration, and see in it a new resource for the future of Europe;

-- make every effort to guarantee young people a truly human future, with work, culture, and education in moral and spiritual values;

-- keep Europe open to all countries of the world, continuing to realize, in the present context of globalization, forms of cooperation which are not only economic, but also social and cultural. Welcome the appeal which, with the Holy Father, we renew, to wipe out or at least reduce the International Debt of developing nations, as some countries have already done.

Taking on these and other responsibilities, the Christian roots of our Europe and its rich humanist tradition will be able to find new ways to give expression to the true common good of individuals and society.

Let Us Pray Together for Europe and for the World

7. As we take our leave of you, who are reading and listening, we offer our prayer to the God of life, of hope and of joyfulness.

Pray with us: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior!" (Lk 1,46-47).

Like Mary, let us praise the Lord for his mercy, which from generation to generation, reaches the men and women of our time.

Our God is faithful! He never forgets the promise made to Abraham and to his descendants, and with the merciful power of his arm, he always comes to the help of all peoples.

He guides human history, and from age to age he brings his plan of love to fulfillment.

As Pastors and brothers, enlivened by these certainties, we renew our confident appeal:

Church of Europe: do not be afraid! Live out your responsibilities! The time will come - and the signs can already be seen! - in which good will triumph over evil. As Mary said in her prayer of faith and hope, arrogant nations and the proud will be scattered, the powerful will be pulled down from their thrones, and the rich sent away empty, while the starving are filled with good things (cf. Lk 1,51-53).

Church of Europe: do not be afraid! The God of hope does not abandon you. Believe in his saving love! Hope in his forgiving, renewing and life giving mercy!

Hope in your Lord and you will never be confounded!



av Webmaster publisert 24.10.1999, sist endret 24.10.1999 - 23:37