VIENNA, Austria (CNS): On a three-day pilgrimage to Austria, Pope Benedict XVI brought a core theme of his pontificate to Central Europe, warning that a drift away from Christian values is leaving society unfulfilled, less charitable and without a real future.
Although the Pope’s events during the September 7-9 visit were low-key, his message was not.
To diverse audiences of Catholic faithful, politicians, Church ministers and volunteers, he argued that Europe risks adopting a godless vision that will inevitably lead to a spiritual, social and demographic dead end.
One of the Pope’s most telling speeches came in Vienna on the first day of his trip, when he addressed a group that included scores of international diplomats and representatives.
Instead of covering the usual list of global trouble spots, the Pope made a strong pro-life appeal, zeroing in on the problems of abortion and euthanasia.
Beyond the moral issue of the taking of innocent life, the Pope raised a wider question: whether Europe, with its low birth rate and rapidly aging population, is “giving up on itself”.
His homily at Mariazell also focused on the modern tensions among religious truth, inter-religious sensitivity and the fear of intolerance.
It’s an issue he raised a year ago in Regensburg, Germany, in a speech that drew criticism because of comments about Islam.
This time, the Pope avoided specific remarks about other religions, but insisted that the Church can and must proclaim Christ as the universal saviour.
The Pope then emphasised a point that has become a touchstone of his pontificate: the Christian conviction that “at the origin of everything is the creative reason of God”.
This is the principle that has shaped Europe’s history and must orient its future, he said.