On Saturday 25th March, the celebrations for the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, one of the most important historic events in the process of European integration, will take place in Rome at the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill. On the same day in 1957, all the bells of Rome were ringing joyously in awareness that an historic event was taking place. Twelve years after the end of the Second World War, even though it was divided by the Iron Curtain, Europe was definitely turning a page in its history and moving on. The so-called Treaties of Rome created the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) and the European Economic Community (EEC).
Today the Anti-European wind of populism blowing in some places is in no way comparable to those historic days at which Europe must urgently look back.
Citizens of Europe, heirs to the great Greek and Roman tradition, Christians with their roots in the blood of martyrs, persons freed from every kind of enslavement in the age of enlightened thinkers. When we look at refugees rejected with force at various European borders, when we look at the agreement with Turkey, when we look at our Mediterranean Sea, a cemetery over which our huge cruise ships sail, we must perforce be ashamed, at times, to be Europeans, Graeco-Romans, Christians and enlightened people.
They are fleeing from bombs, from the destruction of their homes and from the persecutions of Isis. However, perhaps they are not the real refugees ; perhaps it is our Europe which has now lost its roots in its ancient civilization; an ageing and tired Europe, no longer producing children and unable to recognize as its own the sons of another part of the world; perhaps it is Europe which is a refugee, lost, without a homeland, without a landing at which to dock, without a future.
“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”(Mt 21,43)
These words of the Lord are already happening. The roots of the tree which does not bear good fruit for everyone are hewn out; freedom is taken from those who know not how to share with others; the Gospel is taken away from whomever turns it into privileges and goods to be traded with power. Europe of the universities and cathedrals is, through its own fault, reduced to being a hospice for the old, its nations are at “war” one against another, its borders about to give way under the weight of the dignity of those tired of declarations of principle and have turned their rags into banners and their poor tools into barricades. Perhaps we need another people who can make the European vineyards flourish, who can reconstruct a lost civilization. A European civilization which has become an idolater of itself, full of “golden calves” , because the word of true democracy has vanished, the word of the great Western philosophy and the Word of God has also vanished, the Word of God which creates a healthy crisis in you and reminds you about the very heart of your essence, which is to share the gifts of God.
Faced with this true and proper “European sin”, perhaps the Bishop of Rome, a voice crying out in the wilderness, has been sent by God as the new Moses:”With that, the LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ I see how stiff-necked this people is,” continued the LORD to Moses. “Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”
Faced with sin, God said to Moses, go and tell them I will destroy them. The God of Jesus Christ is certainly not wrathful or vengeful, but he will not make compromises with our evil, dissociating himself from a Europe which is no longer itself. Francis by his example and his appeals, is destroying the old tables of an unjust and discriminatory law, he hurls them to the ground and he does so in the name of God to make the “European sinners” realize they are making a mistake; to destroy evil is the beginning of forgiveness and reconciliation. This European sin is a serious thing; the tables of the law no longer exist, they have been destroyed together with the golden calves; Francis is denouncing the gravity of this sin in order to free Europe from its sin. We ask Europe to find the courage (and it is still not too late) to welcome the second tables of the law, this time, as Jesus reminds us, no longer written on stone, i.e. on the frontispieces of the palaces of power, on the shields of armies, on the constitutional charters but on tablets that are the hearts of flesh of all European citizens. God has forgiven you, old Europe; we ask you to start being yourself once again; never again a vanished dream, an illusion, a disappointment. We are awaiting proof of this, praying and loving you still.