Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice, calls the crisis in Libya and North Africa "a challenge from Providence toward the man of the future." The challenge is for Europe to recover the origin of her unity, which is not expressed in currency, but charity. The Patriarch of Venice and founder of Oasis, a center for dialogue between Muslim and Christian scholars, doesn't call for a quick political fix in an evolving and unpredictable situation. In fact, such a "solution", he emphasizes, would be a presumption: peace is a task for every day, and we must appeal to God for help.
This uneasiness demonstrates that Europe cannot be held together only by the cement of the euro, but needs a clear identity, a sound economic and foreign policy, and with ample breadth. But this is impossible, I repeat, unless Europeans as individuals and nations respond to a huge question: "Who will be the man of the third millennium?" Perhaps the tragedy of the migration of large numbers of men and women from Africa, if we are all more generous, can be the glue for the construction of a peaceful Europe because it is capable of opening itself, with an intelligent availability, to those in need. A Europe that becomes a tangible expression of that sharing between people which is essential for the present and the future and that we Europeans, who are a bit comfortable and sedentary, have not been able to make the stable project of the good life.
No one feels sympathetic toward Gaddafi, as we didn't toward Saddam Hussein, and it's easy to acquiesce to the grand impulse toward liberation, or the illusion of it. Still, it all looks so familiar, and it's not just disappointment, but the implacable misery that continues in places where we imagined we were being helpful. Giorgio Vittadini weighs in with a sober judgment on the current engagement in Libya. How can we find a more reasonable position? It exists.
The truth is that the neocolonial policy is starting up again: for oil, for international prestige, for control of North Africa and the Middle East, for the victory of internal elections of the European leaders or a pacifist (!) leader like Obama. And this shows once again the weakness of the European Union, which sanctions the actions of states which, awakened from a benevolent stupor that lasted sixty years, return to a colonial policy. Therefore, before the armed intervention of the coalition, one cannot but think that the only alternative to this blood-letting hypocrisy is the course of the Holy See. A regard for every person starts the dialogue, which is always preferable to armed intervention and which considers international politics the art of compromise, which tries to value all the factors at play: what is the alternative to a regime? What prior conditions are required to establish a political system based on multi-party elections? Is it possible to impose democracy by force?
One could go on, but what has been said would already require of all Western countries a different policy for the good of the people ...
In these days of transition in Egypt, while all the world is watching, we wonder if something new will come about. In the heady excitement, the New York Times offered a euphoric headline: "New Era Dawns in Egypt and Across the Arab World". The drama of Tahrir Square has awakened the world's passion for justice and self-determinacy. Still, we know revolutions can go very wrong, such as Iran's 1979 revolution, and even if some polls are more optimistic than others on Egyptian attitudes, there is no assurance that this change will be peaceful and positive.
Some recent revolutions have gone better than others. After Pope John Paul II's pilgrimage to Poland in 1979, Lech Walesa founded a trade union, Solidarity, setting the stage for pulling down the Iron Curtain. In 1986, the "Rosary Revolution" in the Philippines, after the assassination of Benigno Aquino, led by his widow Corazon Aquino and backed by Cardinal Jaime Sin, brought about the overthrow of the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the establishment of a democratic state.
Hope is universal, but real change can seem elusive. So often revolutions, with the best of intentions, are hijacked for other interests. For these two successful revolutions, Christ was the factor of change. As Fr. Carron notes in his presentation on The Religious Sense: "[I]f Christ is present, it isn't because of our words, but through His signs that we can acknowledge Him." The Pope's presence in Poland was such a sign. The peaceful transition of whole nations is such a sign that is put on display for the world.
You have the presumption of being useful to the Kingdom of God assuming as far as possible the saeculum, its life, its words, its slogans, its way of thinking. But reflect, I beg you, what it means to accept this world. Perhaps it means that you have gradually lost yourselves in it? Sadly, it seems you are doing just that. It [is] difficult these days to find you and recognize you in this strange world of yours. Probably we still recognize you because in this process you are taking your time, because you are being assimilated by the world, whether quickly or slowly, but late all the same. We thank you for many things, or rather for almost everything, but we must distinguish ourselves from you in one thing. We have much to admire in you, so we can and must send you this warning.
"Do not conform to this world, but transform yourselves by the renewal of your minds, so that you will be able to recognize the will of God, what is good, what is pleasing to him, what is perfect" (Rom. 12:2). Do not conform! Me syschematizesthe! How well this expression reveals the perennial root of the verb: schema. In a nutshell, all schemas, all exterior models are empty. We have to want more, the apostle makes it our duty, "change your way of thinking, reshape your minds" metamorfoùsthe tè anakainósei toù noós. Paul's Greek is so expressive and concrete! He opposes schèma or morphé – permanent form, to metamorphé – change in the creature. One is not to change according to any model that in any case is always out of fashion, but it is a total newness with all its wealth (anakainósei). [It's] not the vocabulary that changes but the meaning (noùs).
So not contestation, desacralization, secularization, because this is so little compared with Christian anakainósis. Reflect on these words and your naïve admiration for revolution, Maoism, and violence (of which, in any case you are incapable) will abandon you.
Your critical and prophetic enthusiasm has already borne fruit, and we cannot indiscriminately condemn you for this. We simply realize, and tell you sincerely, that we have more esteem for St. Paul's calm and discriminating invitation, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?" (2 Cor. 13:5).
We cannot imitate the world precisely because we have to judge it, not with pride and superiority, but with love, just as the Father loved the world (Jn. 3:16) and for this reason pronounced judgment on it.
Do not phroneîn – think, and in conclusion hyperphroneîn- but sophroneîn, think with wisdom (Cf. Rom. 12:13). Be wise, so that we can discern the signs of the will and the time of God. Not the fashion of the moment, but what is good, honest, and perfect.
We write as unwise to you who are wise, as weak men to you who are strong, as wretched men to you who are even more wretched! And this is stupid of us because there are certainly among you some excellent men and women. But precisely for this reason we need to write foolishly, as the Apostle Paul taught us when he took repeated Christ's words that the Father has hidden wisdom from those who know a lot about these things (Lk. 10:21).
This translation of Fr. Zvěřina's letter is taken from pages 110-112 of the book Generating Traces in the History of the World: New Traces of the Christian Experience, by Luigi Giussani, Stefano Alberto, Javier Prades.
AVSI-USA to participate in New York Encounter, January 14-17, 2011
AVSI-USA will participate in the annual New York Encounter cultural festival to take place in the heart of Manhattan from January 14-17, 2011. The event is open to the public and all exhibits and most presentations are free of charge. See the NYE website for more information.
AVSI-USA's participation will commemorate in a particular way the first year since the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010. Opportunities to learn more about AVSI's response in Haiti and to speak with medical volunteers who spent time there will be extended.
Read more information on AVSI's response in Haiti.