Gdansk : Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, Homily 8 October
Social Catholic Days for Europe
Church of Saint Brigitte, Gdansk - 8 October 2009
Translation from the original Italian
Solidarity, the future of Europe
Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We open the first Catholic Days for Europe with the celebration of the Eucharist, by listening to God's Word and with the gift of the Body and the Blood of Christ pro vita mundi: words which illuminate and a gift which restores our personal and social life.
The geographical and historical context of this celebration already offers important proposals for the inspiring theme of these Days: solidarity as a challenge for Europe. How can we not acknowledge, here in Gdansk, a number of singularly evocative anniversaries: the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and the end of the Communist regime in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, but also the first visit by Pope John Paul II in 1979 to his native country, the very place where the social movement Solidarnosc originated? The church in which the Eucharist celebration is held is dedicated to Saint Brigitte, who was proclaimed the Joint Patron Saint of Europe a few years ago: and so we are referred to the spiritual bulwarks of our continent, to those men and women whose individual sanctity is expressed with a great and active love for a united and inclusive Europe in terms of faith and life.
An ambitious task stands before us today, before the 27 Countries of the European Union and their 500 million citizens. Once again, we must take up and continue the path towards an inclusive Europe, within and for the benefit of an inclusive world: a Europe capable of imagining, planning and building an increasingly vast and widespread solidarity like a main road of freedom and peace.
What we are called to face is a genuine challenge: a loud plea which addresses our freedom. This challenge springs from a deep, acute sense of responsibility in the face of the historical, social and cultural situations, which we are experiencing in Europe. Christian faith teaches us to recognise in these the unfurling of God's very design in respect of our time, placing us in an attitude of industrious availability and intelligent obedience to the Lord. In this way, the words we hear in the Biblical readings are a light and a stimulus to seize the grace and duty which are contained in this challenge.
The first words, those of the prophet Malachi (3,13-20), offer us a message of hope and trust: an urgent, necessary message to overcome discouragement whenever injustice and violence seem to prevail and the path of unity and solidarity of Europe seems to give way to incomprehension, closures, slowness, obstacles and refusals... The prophet states that the just, the good and the "God-fearing"" too experience discomfort, so much so that they blame God himself: "You have said: 'It is vain to serve God and what do we profit by keeping his command...? Rather must we call the proud blessed; for indeed evildoers prosper and even tempt God with impunity.'"
But immediately the prophet explains: the Lord asks the "God-fearing" for a great act of faith, a faithful and courageous abandonment in him who is the protagonist of history, in his safe hands which govern their destinies, in his compassionate and just heart: "For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, And the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch". The prophet continues to say that the same fire will become an indisputable judgement, a full revelation of the truth, a splendid testimony of the victory of the just: "But for you, who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice."
The lesson for us is simple and formidable. The generous commitment of all human, social, economic, political and cultural forces is required, of course, on the European path towards unity and solidarity. But this is not enough: sound education is required in moral and spiritual values, as well as religious values. Is it not perhaps from our communion with God that communion between our fellowmen, individuals and peoples can be generated? Is it not perhaps from the experience of the love of God who gives himself to us and puts himself at our service that the value and necessity of opening to others, of the gift, of solidarity and of fraternity can be lit in us? Spiritual men and women, who are certainly not lacking amongst us, are undoubtedly the most effective builders of this solidarity of which our continent has great need!
2. Let us now listen to the words of Lord Jesus, as related to us by the Evangelist Luke (11,5-13): "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you." It is a prayer addressed boldly to God who is our Father in which we can trace the theme of solidarity, a solidarity which occurs between friends. One friend goes to another at midnight to ask him to lend him three loaves of bread to give to a third friend who has arrived from a journey. Of course, the person called on does not wish to be bothered: "the door is already locked and the children are with me in bed, I cannot get up to give you them." But Jesus intervenes on the scene, saying to those who listen to him: "I tell you that, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is a friend, he will get up and give him as much as he needs because of the man's boldness."
"Giving the three loaves of bread" is certainly a sign of solidarity, an opening up to the other person in response to his need. All this, says Jesus, takes place in an entirely usual fashion where there is the maturity of a love which is given; but it may also occur where there is a boldness, where one's need is shouted out with more strength. We will be able to talk of solidarity as a fruit of charity and justice.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke to us of a similar solidarity in his recent encyclical, in terms which I will not hesitate to define as prophetic. Within a social and cultural context dominated by a materialistic idea of life, where the economic/financial world is a prisoner of profit as an absolute end - always and in any case -, the encyclical of the Pope makes "the sun of justice" promised by the prophet Malachi shine, presenting categories which to the majority are not only abstract and utopian, but "absurd" and entirely unproposable: a gift economy, one of non-profit, mutual trust, communion, solidarity and fraternity.
Now we are all convinced that the prophetism of facts must correspond to the prophetism of words. In this way I would like to recall Robert Schuman's Declaration of 9 May 1950, considered a milestone in the process of European unification: "Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan; it will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity."
In my opinion, the expression "de facto solidarity" is truly significant and stimulating as it refers to a solidarity which cannot be exhausted in intentions and sentiments but must be expressed in the concreteness of daily life, as John, the Evangelist, warns us: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3,18). Isolated gestures even though generous are not sufficient, rather a total lifestyle is required moulded by the logic of co-operation and welcome, of sobriety which seeks the just measure in everything, of sharing and the gift of self.
De facto solidarity! In the evocative parable he tells, Jesus points at getting up as a crucial gesture of solidarity; the loaves of bed requested at midnight from the so-called "bothersome friend" are vital for one person. For another they cost the gift and effort of "getting up" to get them: well this "getting up" is decisive!
I would like to explain that the first expressive step of solidarity must be developed in the mind, in the heart, in the conscience, in conviction, that is, that true solidarity is not at all an abstract, emotive, consolatory ideal but a personal and inescapable call to "get up" at first hand, to take charge of the needs of others, to give of one's own in material terms and even more in industriousness and human participation; and that in the pursuit and spread of the "practice of solidarity", a strength issues, which is typically social as well as "political", which pledges everyone to an active and responsible protagonism towards others for integral human development.
Solidarity, understood in this way, is the best cure for the economic/financial crisis which Europe and the world are experiencing, it is the antidote to every future crisis.
A solidarity marked by the intelligent and responsible working of those who do not derogate from the principal path of ethics. Solidarity and ethics are binding, one to the other. Solidarity must be able to move in the complexity of changes and from the difficulties of today. And ethics provide the tool for this insight. Only ethics, in fact, place man in a position to choose in the direction of the good.
Solidarity and ethics together, therefore, will lead us out of the crisis, as I maintain in a sentence which I love so much "There is no future without solidarity."
Is this the future face of Europe? Will people, groups, communities and nations really be able to listen to the cries for help from others, in whatever circumstances they are shouted? Will they be able "to get up", to make concrete and difficult choices, give up advantages and comforts so that others receive what they need when they need it?
This is the challenge awaiting Europe of the immediate future, upon which we wish to look following the course of Christian hope: a Union of people based not only on contractual relationships but also fraternal and inclusive relationships, in which everyone allows himself to be called on by the rights of others, assuming them as his own rights; a new solidarity to be sought with patience and determination, including outside the usual schemes and methods. And to be invoked with boldness in prayer, as - the Pope writes again in his encyclical - "Development needs Christians with their arms raised up towards God in a position of prayer, Christians moved by the awareness that the full love of truth, caritas in veritate, from which real development comes, is not produced by us but is given to us as a gift. Therefore, as well as reacting with awareness in difficult, complex times too, we must refer above all to his love." (n.79)
Let us invoke now from Christ in the Eucharist, which we are celebrating, the gift of divine love in truth. It is this very love which will have us "get up" every day again, available and generous in our pledge to live in solidarity, witnesses convinced and glad that this is the fertile germ of the future and a source of freedom and peace for Europe and the world.
+ Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi
Archbishop of Milan
Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan (Italy)
Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi was born on the 14th of March 1934 in Renate, Italy. In 1957 he received a licentiate in theology at the Seminary of Lower Venegono, during that year he was ordained at the Archdiocese of Milan. He also holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, in Rome.
On the 1st of July 1989 he was elected Metropolitan Archbishop of Ancona-Osma. Then in 1995 he was named Metropolitan Archbishop of Genoa. On July the 11th 2002 he became Archbishop of Milan.
From 1995 to 2000 he was the Vice President of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI).