Pope Francis ignores his travels to ancient Europe: now an ocean of faith

Postponed – to avoid political misunderstanding – Journey to JerusalemWhere a meeting with Patriarch Kirill was scheduled, a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan was postponed (due to a knee infection), and Pope Francis stopped for a few weeks. But now he’s ready to get back on the road. On the twenty-fourth of this month, he will travel to Canada, where he will stay for six days. will be forgiven forPersecution of Indigenous Children In the notorious (but not only) Catholic “boarding schools”, where they were forcibly enrolled in the last century.

The Pope has already visited more than 50 countries around the world. The long list stretches from Albania to Thailand, from Sweden to Madagascar, and from Brazil to the United Arab Emirates. There is Northern Europe (Ireland and Sweden), there is Eastern Europe (Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia), there is Balkan Europe (Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the Mediterranean: from Malta to Greece, from Cyprus to Turkey.

A huge one stands out in this road network white dot, Western Europe. The historical core that built Catholicism, once upon a time, the apostles Paul and Peter according to tradition moved from Jerusalem to Rome. There was a logic in the papal planning that Francis carried out after his election. head towards edges of the world, to appreciate the universality of Catholicism—the same impulse that prompted him to give purple to a bishop of Tonga or more recently to an ambassador to Mongolia—without indulging in old-fashioned nostalgia for “very Christian” France or “apostolic” Spain at one time or Austria for the “holy” Roman Empire. Concept selection. But in the tenth year of Bergoglian papacyAs preparations are being made for a world synod that should reshape Catholicism in the twenty-first century, it is clear that ancient Europe has also become ocean of faith. A suburb where the splendor of cathedrals covers the desolation of desertion – the vertical fall of priestly vocations, the massive shrinkage of women’s congregations, the escape from confession, the catastrophic decline in attendance at Sunday Mass – highlighting existential crises and the systematic and growing difficulty of self-identification in tradition and in ecclesiastical structure.

Almost deserted churches Sunday in the city, the parishes of the country where one wonders “Who will remain after the death of the old parish priest and the disappearance of the nucleus of the compassionate elderly?” A large part of the new generations, deserted by the weariness of believers who have lost their enthusiasm … All this testifies that once upon a time the doctrine of Christianity in Western Europe (Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, England, Austria) is only a “center” . They are now a space in which faith has become socially marginal. A space in which the Roman Pope’s personality may continue to dominate because he is an international champion and a media interlocutor who is able to express concepts and needs, Values ​​that influence public opinion, but where the bishop is often a brilliant anonymous and the local church hardly influences social and political reality. What Archbishop Bergoglio had already made clear before his pontificate took place: the priest is not obliged to look for the only person lost sheepbut one sheep remained in the barn while the other 99 were scattered outside.

same phenomenon National Priesthood It reflects a religion that follows politics rather than directs it. In Germany, 350,000 believers left the Catholic Church last year: they removed themselves from the automatic confessional tax system. Resentment, fatigue, rebellion over non-current ecclesiastical reforms, opposition to reformism, financial selfishness? The fact remains that bleeding continues through an officially qualified act “Leaving the Church”. In France, the Great Consultation launched by Pope Francis in view of the 2023 World Synod included only ten percent of practitioners (average age 70), with a widespread absence of young people. For years, data points to one advance great famine faithful practice. In France, attendance at Sunday mass is 3-4%, Spain only 10%, and Germany 9. In Italy, the phenomenon of non-adherence to any denomination has exploded: a third of the population. when i Unbeliever guys It reaches over 40 percent, and as high as 48 in some age groups.

If Francis is looking for existential fringes, areas where the faith lives according to Catholic practices and structures live with great difficulties, he should not go very far.

Ancient Europe, this is how many Catholics in the western part of the continent feel, now waiting for and needing Francis. Also because another element highlights the “abandonment” of ancient Europe. Dramatic Biennial pandemic Covid, by closing churches and moving mass remotely, meant it It’s not all about ritual Once the temples reopen. Part of the faithful was lost along the way. Another phenomenon is emerging: the difficulty of finding themselves conceptually in the sacrament of the liturgy by young people, also ready to engage in voluntary work, stimulated by Christian ideals.

This disagreement between the understanding of the Eucharistic celebration and the idealistic impulse in society is only beginning (or only now being realized), but it certainly can be fraught with consequences. This is the reason why so many priests and believers in Western Europe would like to finally see the Pope among them.

At the same time there is also a file geopolitical reason, which may suggest Bergoglio to move in this direction. The war in Ukraine is heading towards an escalation with no end in sight. Only from the core that founded the European Union can a tremor of reasonableness come that opens the way for real negotiations for a ceasefire and lays the foundations flexibility, Overcoming the sensational climate of “holy war” that pervades London, Poland, the Baltic states and part of the Washington establishment. That is why it is important that Francis’ voice “no to a world divided between conflicting powers” and the need for peace negotiations to take place with a voice in Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Brussels and Vienna.

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