VATICAN CITY, 27 SEP 2009 (VIS) - This afternoon at the archbishop's palace in Prague the Holy Father met with members of the Ecumenical Council of Churches of the Czech Republic. The Holy Father arrived at 5.15 p.m. to be greeted by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague. Having then been welcomed by the president of the ecumenical council, Benedict XVI pronounced his address.
"It is hard to believe that only two decades have passed since the collapse of former regimes gave way to a difficult but productive transition towards more participatory political structures", said the Pope. "During this period, Christians joined together with others of good will in helping to rebuild a just political order, and they continue to engage in dialogue today in order to pave new ways towards mutual understanding, co-operation for peace and the advancement of the common good.
"Nevertheless", he added, "attempts to marginalize the influence of Christianity upon public life - sometimes under the pretext that its teachings are detrimental to the wellbeing of society - are emerging in new forms. ... The artificial separation of the Gospel from intellectual and public life should prompt us to engage in a mutual 'self-critique of modernity' and 'self-critique of modern Christianity', specifically with regard to the hope each of them can offer mankind ... in a period marked by proliferating world views".
He went on: "Christianity has much to offer on the practical and ethical level". Yet "God offers a deeper reality which is nonetheless inseparable from the 'economy' of charity at work in this world: He offers salvation".
The term salvation "is replete with connotations", the Pope explained, "yet it expresses something fundamental and universal about the human yearning for wellbeing and wholeness. ... It is the central truth of the Gospel and the goal to which every effort of evangelisation and pastoral care is directed. And it is the criterion to which Christians constantly redirect their focus as they endeavour to heal the wounds of past divisions".
"The Church's proclamation of salvation in Christ Jesus is ever ancient and ever new. ... As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance. Indeed, her memory of the past animates her aspirations for the future".
Pope Benedict went on to mention Sts. Adalbert and Agnes who spread the Gospel in "the conviction that Christians should not cower in fear of the world but rather confidently share the treasury of truths entrusted to them. Likewise Christians today, opening themselves to present realities and affirming all that is good in society, must have the courage to invite men and women to the radical conversion that ensues upon an encounter with Christ and ushers in a new life of grace.
"From this perspective", he added, "we understand more clearly why Christians are obliged to join others in reminding Europe of her roots. It is not because these roots have long since withered. On the contrary! It is because they continue - in subtle but nonetheless fruitful ways - to supply the continent with the spiritual and moral sustenance that allows her to enter into meaningful dialogue with people from other cultures and religions. Precisely because the Gospel is not an ideology, it does not presume to lock evolving socio-political realities into rigid schemas. Rather, it transcends the vicissitudes of this world and casts new light on the dignity of the human person in every age".
"Let us ask the Lord", the Pope concluded, "to implant within us a spirit of courage to share the timeless saving truths which have shaped, and will continue to shape, the social and cultural progress of this continent".
At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father travelled to Prague Castle to meet with members of the academic community.
PV-CZECH REP./ECUMENISM/PRAGUE VIS 20090928 (680)