Giovanni Paolo II e l’Europa
Keywords:Europe, papal teaching, John Paul II, united Europe, European Union
John Paul II and Europe
In his article entitled ‘Una frontiera per l’Europa: dove?’ (The boundary of Europe: where is it located?), published in Vita e Pensiero (October 1978), a monthly periodical disseminated by the Catholic University in Milan, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła presented the significance of such concepts and ideas as Europe, being a European, Europeaness, the West and the East. These concepts were a fruit of a longer period of reflection which was born in a culture that was almost unknown for Western Europe until then. This essay constituted a sort of a basis of a richer and more multi-faceted concept which began to emerge in the first months of the long pontificate in the religious, cultural and political perspective.
John Paul II’s ideas concerning Europe derived from other cultural roots than the ones of his predecessors in the seat of the Holy See who had a Western European background. These ideas originated from the experience of a son of one of the nations that were persecuted in Central-Eastern Europe who referred to the right of joint creation of Europe and presence in Europe. Such rights could not be rejected by history. The promotion of the importance of Slavic peoples and their Christian experiences constitutes a key element of the entire political project of Pope John Paul II whose final goal was to unite the European continent. By anticipating the political and institutional changes of 1989, this vision aimed to prepare the nations of Central-Eastern Europe for these changes, and eventually it proved victorious. John Paul II’s concept of Europe was equally cultural as it was political. The thought and the awareness of the Church concerning Europe became enriched in an unprecedented way thanks to the Pope’s versatile magisterium. We may say that John Paul II had his own project of Europe. Thanks to the groundbreaking events in international politics, which were brought about himself to a large extent, the late Pope could live till the day that his ideas were at least partly realized.
To sum up, the main points of John Paul II’s thinking concerning Europe included the following issues:
– the division of Europe into a western and eastern part, which emerged after the Second World War and which also entailed the division of Germany into two parts, eliminated in a sense the peculiar character of Central Europe (Mitteleuropa) from the common public space of the continent;
– the identification of the geographical boundary of Europe not only in the western, northern and southern parts, but also in the eastern part, is unarguable: the boundary runs along the Ural mountain range;
– “the eastern variant” of Europeaness runs along the Ural to the Caspian Sea and along the Caucasus to the Black Sea; in the psychological and ethical sense, the Eastern boundary of Europe is above all the boundary of the pen-etration of the Gospel; then it is the boundary of the invasions coming from the heart of Asia, whose aim was to subjugate the European nations which had a well-developed cultural and political profile;
– language, culture and history allow us to define the human and spiritual boundaries between countries; the term “European” has many meanings and it allows us to derive various concepts due to the existence of two religious and cultural centres in the past (Rome and Constantinople) and the Greek influence. Moreover, the migration of non -Christian peoples and historical events concerning also the Nordic peoples, also play a role. The factor which eventually defines the concept of Europeaness is making reference to the sense of man’s existence, to human dignity which is based on the Gospel.
In one of his last documents concerning Europe – the post-synodal Apostolic adhortation “Ecclesia in Europa”, published on 28 June 2003, John Paul II clearly emphasized the necessity of the “evangelization of the culture” of contemporary Europe, but he also considered the existing reality which required a substantial critical confrontation with the current cultural situation of Europe.