A Pax Romana – Newman conference marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
High Leigh Conference center Hoddesdon. 13th to 15th November 2009
The conference theme arose from the world vide economic crisis of 2009 providing an opportunity to review what had happened since the fall of the Berlin Wall exactly 20 years earlier. The conference title was “1989 -2009 Moving into a new Europe” but the sub title “misconceptions, hopes, disappointments, lessons learned, perspectives” formed the basis of many of the talks. The focus of the conference was on social, economic and spiritual issues but there more important contributions from eye witnesses who had observed events in Eastern Europe in 1988 /89. In the short time available no attempt was made to cover events across the whole of Europe and a late change of programme meant that there was very limited mention of Poland which provided so much of the stimulus for the overthrow of other Communist regimes. The contributions below are in a variety of formats and do not always reflect the length of the original input.
Personal testimonies of the revolutionary events of 1989 were given by Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi, an Austrian journalist, described the events in different Eastern European countries leading up to the fall of the Wall and Jozsef Szikora from Hungarian Radio talked about the difficulties in his early professional life caused by not being a member of the Hungarian Communist Party. Brian Hanrahan of the BBC gave an exciting account of his efforts to film events in East Germany in 1989 and brought us up to date with his visit earlier in the week to the 20t” anniversary celebrations in Berlin.
Eastern Europe’s Uncertain Liberation: How Solid are the New Freedoms and who are the main Beneficiaries?
The accepted view dominant in commemorations of the 20t” anniversary of communism’s fall in Eastern Europe is this: authoritarian political systems with dysfunctional economies have been transformed into vigorous democratic states with market economies, active civil societies and the rule of law. But this paper argues that the undeniable advances are far less spectacular and, in some cases are capable of being reversed.
The EU, despite its humanizing and moral vision, negotiated with power groups some with a pre-1989 lineage others more recent, who have benefited from the economic liberalism which was a criteria for joining as a full members. In perhaps most countries the political elites are divorced from the rest of their societies. Benefits from accession have been distributed extremely unevenly and the EU’s commitment to integrating its new members into an enduring partnership has been exposed as brittle by the recent financial crisis and the rise of another model for Europe’s future, Vladimir Putin’s ‘sovereign democracy’. Under-estimated Legacies of communism
•Political culture shaped by conformism and dependence on the state.
•Lingering appeal of collectivist ideologies (particularly top-down nationalism)
•Distrust of civic commitments.
West and Yugoslav conflict
Under Slobodan Milosevic (1941-2005), an audacious attempt was made to break up Yugoslavia by inciting conflict and rebuilding the state around Serbia, the largest of the 6 republics. If necessary, this was to be accomplished by altering borders and the ethnic composition of mixed regions (Bosnia). Claim: the break-up of Yugoslavia not inevitable. In the 1980s it had been was in a far stronger position to join the EU than any other part of the communist bloc.
The Atlantic democracies had a military alliance, NATO, and an economic instrument, the European Community (EC), capable of promoting a democratic and peaceful agenda for change. A logical starting point to prevent conflict would have been strong and unambiguous backing for those forces committed to preserving common ground and dealing with disputes in a non-violent and pragmatic way. But Western leaders failed to recognize the gravity of the crisis or even the primary responsibility for it of leaders, starting with Milosevic and including Croatia’s Franco Tudjman for using hate-filled propaganda to license violence on a grandiose scale.
Milosevic knew the grip of stereotypical views about the Balkans among Western elites and their limited attention-span. From 1992 to 1995, Bosnia became the focus for a massive killing-spree. Its capital, under siege, in these years, 10,000 inhabitants killed, was in many ways a metaphor for the post-nationalist Europe, EU visionaries often struggled to articulate: ‘an extraordinary amalgam of ethnicities, religions, cultures, customs, architectures, and alphabets …developed in the five centuries of Bosnia’s existence’. The world-view of militant nationalism was accepted by the EC and later the UN and the USA as they sought to broker various peace agreements. The preference for dealing with one Yugoslavia soon gave way to the preference of engaging with, indeed privileging, the advocates of ethnically pure states. The men who controlled Russia after 2000 learned the lessons from the Western debacle in the Balkans. Men in the Kremlin not dissimilar to the ones who assisted Milosevic now wield power.
In the autumn of 1995, with Bosnian Serb forces wilting in the face of NATO airstrikes, the Atlantic democracies suddenly enjoyed the opportunity to make up for their dire performance. Delivering a knock-out blow to Bosnian Serb ‘ethnic cleansers’ and serving notice to their Croatian counterparts or any Muslims prepared to use the same methods, that they would face similar treatment from a Western alliance intent on applying the same standards of behaviour in the Balkans as elsewhere in Europe, would have saved the USA and the states of the EU from endless trouble in the Balkans in the years ahead.
Instead, a peace agreement was hastily arranged at Dayton in the USA surprisingly little altered from the ones on the table during the era of diplomatic appeasement. The republic was effectively partitioned under a bogus federal arrangement. Forces committed to reconciliation were frozen out with ethnic rights taking precedence over individual human rights. For several years, Radovan Karadzic, despite being an indicted war crimes suspect, wielded enormous political influence in the Republic of Srpska – it preserved its state structure and even armed forces.
•Radicalization of Muslims pre-disposed to question Western models.
•Boost to organized crime a chief beneficiary of European integration. Weak procedural democracies
Parties are often the most despised institutions in polis. Parliaments viewed as an arena where highly-placed figures gorge their appetite at the public expense. In the worse cases, much energy is devoted to capturing the state and diverting its revenue to party figures and their business allies. Oligarchic tendencies are strong in the Balkans. In Bulgaria, Albania and Romania just under a quarter of national income and consumption belonged to 10% of the population in 2004. This compares well with the Czech Republic (22.411/0), Hungary (22.8%), and Poland (27.4%). But there had already been a higher income differential in the Central European communist states before 1989 thanks to policies that encouraged the emergence of a middle-class. The Balkan states mentioned had been rigidly egalitarian yet, in the space of fifteen years population, inequality in income had already reached or surpassed the Central European states. A much higher upward redistribution of income has taken place in the Balkans than in Central Europe. Better-educated, younger and largely urban sectors of the population usually don’t want to get involved in ‘dirty’ politics. They seek professional fulfilment in business or hi-tech pursuits which often mean emigrating. Often only the media, particularly the press and radio stations, offers a creative outlet for politically-minded young people but journalism is often a frustrating and even dangerous occupation. In a lot of countries the print media is now in the hands of moguls who benefited from the EU-sponsored privatisation process. Not surprisingly, they usually don’t see the need for investigative journalism or balanced coverage of political events.
Women have not been to the fore in East European politics (except the Baltic states). Everywhere, much of the struggle for material survival falls on women’s shoulders, leaving little room for political activism. In many countries, the income of the urban middle-classes is swallowed up by food and utility payments which mean they don’t have the leisure time or the freedom to consider the long-term investment of time and energy that politics requires. Many put off starting families. In the Balkans by the end of the 1990s, total fertility rates (the average number of children that a woman would have during her lifetime) were among the lowest in the whole of Europe. Bulgaria’s remained at 1.2 through the second half of the 1990s (one of the lowest figures in the world). With the flight of young enterprising citizens to the West, an ageing population finds itself dependent on a shrinking pool of regular wage-earners.
The EU’s Eastern enlargement.
Preoccupation with the Maastricht treaty and escalating tensions in Yugoslavia meant several years elapsed before the EU’s intentions towards the former communist bloc became clear. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, were the states with which Brussels had the closest ties. They had formed the Visegrad group in 1990, committed to rapid economic reform and integration with Euro-Atlantic economic and security structures. They challenged the EU to set out clear guidelines for accession or else justify their continued exclusion. In June 1993, the EU responded with unfurling the set of conditions for beginning accession negotiations. The Copenhagen criteria required candidates to demonstrate that they
•have stable institutions that guarantee democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and protection of minorities.
•have a functioning market economy capable of withstanding competitive pressures within the EU.
•are able to take on the obligations of membership and adhere to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.
•have administrative and judicial structures which will allow for the adoption and application of EU legislation.
In 1997, at the Luxembourg summit of EU heads of government, it was decided to simultaneously extend invitations to all eleven aspirant members :`nearly all from the East) but to proceed at a far slower pace with those falling well short of entry requirements, Romania standing out in this category. The quality of negotiators from Poland and Hungary often impressive; they knew the EU regulations even better than the Eurocrats according to one Brussels insider. . But this was not true in relation to Romania and Bulgaria. They were invited to begin negotiations for entry in 2000 after providing vital support for NATO and the EU in the armed confrontation with Milosevic over his persecution of Kosovar Albanians. Supposedly the EU would not negotiate with countries whose economies were palpably not ready to face the rigours of membership for a long time. But making big decisions on informal criteria showed calculating local elites that the rules could be overturned.
Case-study of Romania and the EU.
The EU often underestimated how entrenched groups opposed to meaningful change were capable of indefinitely sabotaging their plans. In Romania, second-ranking communists rose up against Ceausescu in late 1989, executed the dictator and his wife, and proclaimed the death of the communist system. Entry into the European Union on the restricted agenda of the domestic power networks was perhaps the greatest triumph of an elite which had regrouped and mutated from the old structures. They retained political control within a weak pluralist framework while acquiring vast wealth as much of the economy was privatised on informai criteria. The exercise of’soft power’ has been theorized as a process of Europeanisation at work. But the EU’s engagement with Romania turned out to be low-grade and uninspired. Serious design flaws have been exposed in the EU’s efforts to establish an arena coinciding with the recognized borders of Europe where values of economic and political pluralism would be dominant. Instead, new forms of political authoritarianism combined with manipulation of the media and the advancing of criminality deep into the heart of the economy, have occurred. The EU’s humanizing and moral vision in which an ex-communist state like Romania hopefully would see the rise of an engaged citizenry emboldened by the reform of public institutions, lies in tatters. It is hard to see how any other outcome was possible because the EU ended up negotiating with the successors of the communist nomenklatura and secret police. During the seven years of negotiations, it was the economic conditions not the political ones which Brussels was most interested in Bucharest complying with (this is largely true for the other candidate countries).
The masterstroke employed by the Bucharest oligarchy was to induce major multi¬national firms to become advocates of early membership on informal terms. Juicy contracts were offered by the Nastase government (2000-04) to top firms close to leading West European parties. These companies lobbied the major German and French parties for early membership with the promise of reforms to be delivered at some unspecified point later on. The numerous pro-European elements in society with skills and commitments that could have improved the quality of the accession process were frozen out by the EU. Ordinary citizens bore the burden of a poorly planned accession process and a huge exodus of people occurred. Ultimately the EU turned out to be clueless about what it wanted from Romania beyond the purely formalistic requirements of membership. But the domestic elite had its own very coherent vision – opportunities for the entrenchment of their networks of wealth and power at the heart of the world’s most successful regional political and economic entity.
A conflict with the President, Traian Basescu, which included personal and political dimensions, revolved around whether the Iliescu formula for ensuring that politics consisted of satisfying the appetites of a wide range of privileged interests should be replaced by a more citizen-orientated model focussing on institutional reform and the accountability of elected members of the elite to the law.
Democracy advocates from outside Romania had hoped that the post-communist system would acquire legitimacy by acquiring rules and institutions that were broadly respected by political forces. If these democratic structures proved capable of launching a reform process, then the integration of citizens into political life and the consolidation of a pluralist system were likely and desirable outcomes. But instead it was the distribution of state assets among political players, their key economic allies and a retinue of clients which promoted consensual behaviour (not just in Romania). Sometimes, there is a contrary outcome and elites splinter badly over ideology and the distribution of resources. This happened in Hungary which, once seen as the pacemaker of reform, is experiencing deep-seated polarisation.
Is the EU About to Meets its Match in Putin’s Russia?
The European Union has been a key supporter of globalisation. It appears to weaken the power of the nation- state just as the Kremlin is trying to reinforce it after a period of disastrous instability in the 1990s. Vladimir Putin has responded by using its control of energy supplies to periodically disrupt the economy of parts of the EU. Confusion about the strength of Russia: It relies on exports of natural resources and has little industry left. Its population is falling so fast that by 2050 there will be more Egyptians than Russians. Is it desperately trying to cheat history by defying globalisation. By 2007 Russia’s previous reliance on Western loans had turned into Europe’s dependence on Russian energy resources. Russia’s ideological ambition is to be the other Europe – an alternative to the European Union. With the ideology of sovereign democracy, Russia within modernity. So Russia is seeking to restore its statehood by reviving European practices and ideologies of the c19 rather than the European ideas of the c21.
Slow to defend values of a post-national and inter-dependent world. In important quarters, attempts made to rationalise or even justify Russian behaviour. This strengthens the belief in Moscow that the EU is a temporary phenomenon, an interesting experiment but one essentially with no future. Ironically, the biggest success for Russia in its confrontational strategy has been with Germany. Germany now has no inhibitions about lecturing countries like Britain about the need to abandon its remaining nationalist attachments and create a post-nationalist EU with many of the key features of a state. But it turns out that Germany is willing to retreat from energy solidarity with its EU partners and instead establish a bilateral energy pact with Russia. By 2009 the close trade ties between the two countries was leading to an economic community of interests to emerge between them.
In Russia the rights of the citizen-voter are few.. In the EU, no police state exists but it is not clear how the citizens are able to influence the decisions made by its key institutions; accountability is unclear and their legitimacy is sometimes open to question. Could Putin’s managed democracy start to appeal to West European elites faced by a range of pressures that make them impatient with liberal democracy? Gerhard Schroeder on the political left regards Putin’s model as legitimate, so does Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi on the right who exercises a media monopoly and faces accusations of political and economic cronyism much worse than anything seen elsewhere in Europe with the exception of Russia itself.
So it might be possible for the concept of sovereign democracy to be exported to Western Europe and for the elites of the EU and Russia to establish an understanding, but on Russia’s terms. A form of autocracy could grow at the heart of the EU where democratic mechanisms are already very unsatisfactory either through reviving nationalism or promoting a form of muscular Europeanism.
Downside of EU enlargement overall.
1. Forms of economic colonialism increasingly visible. Central European banks have bought up the region’s largest financial services companies: evidence of asset stripping and repatriating of vast profits. West European agri-business and major firms benefit from massive EU subsidies thanks to their holdings in new members.
2. EU reluctance to assist Baltic state members in crisis shows lack of solidarity with Eastern members. Insistence on high value currency in order to prevent shock to European banks with huge exposure in the region.
3. EU collective values drained of their Christian content; secular and humanistic ideology prevails. Danger of cultural Marxism enjoying the sway over the younger generation of east Europeans that it had never really had under communism.
4. European Parliament now seen as co-equal with national parliaments but no effective oversight over multi-layered EU system. An inadequate democratic fig leaf with questionable ethical standards. Danger of post-democracy emerging in the EU?
Desperate EU efforts to engage with a Russia simultaneously bullying its neighbours raises fears in Eastern countries that they are seen as expendable in Berlin, Rome and Paris.
In the face of EU irresolution and concentration on the interests of a few major economic and political players, there may be a temptation on the part of some elites in former satellite states to reach an accommodation with Russia (however hazardous that might appear). The prestige of the EU has weakened now that the enlargement process is mainly complete. Its ability to secure acquiescence in large part depended on the desire of countries on its fringes to become full members. Particular new members such as Poland are unlikely to be compliant and ones with cunning elites like Romania are looking for ways to sabotage its effectiveness as a carrier of democratic values. But the biggest fault-lines occur within long-established members with German’s current role increasingly problematic and indeed eurosceptic in the true sense of the word. The rise of neutralism within key opinion groups associated with the European project means that divergences with the USA may be hard to conceal even during the presidency of Barack Obama. It means that a democratic West keen to attract new members which appeared to enjoy a period of dominance in 1989 is now in a surprisingly weakened condition. The episodes drawn attention to in this talk, the mishandling of the Yugoslav crisis, a poorly-handled eastern enlargement certainly in a number of important states, and the refusal to defend its own values, in its relations with Russia, may partly explain why.
Tom Gallagher, The Balkans After the Cold War, Routledge, London 2003,
Tom Gallagher, Romania and the European union: How the Weak vanquished the Strong, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
Tom Gallagher is Professor of Ethnic Conflict and Peace in the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford.
Why 1989 transformed the West: Politics and Culture since the end of Post war Europe -Emil Brix
Emil Brix had a far more positive view. Although Gorbachov did not send in the tanks, the real heroes of the era were those involved in the civil rights movements, although many of these were no longer in power. Except in the Balkans there was a strong moral impulse amongst the revolutionaries and even now ne thought that “faith is back in town”, thanks to Eastern European members of the EU. Ambassador Brix was concerned that in many countries the Catholic Church was not particularly involved in civil society and he pointed out that “Culture” was a new development for the EU and very little finance was available for this area. The wounds of the Communist era will take a long time to heal, often it is not easy to identify victims and perpetrators but somehow most countries have made a relatively smooth transition post 1989.
Ambassador Emil Brix is the Director General for Foreign Cultural Politics in the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs.
The failure of the EU to capitalise on the opportunities in Eastern Europe was supported by Dzsingisz Gabor, a former Netherlands MP, and he also stressed the need to develop the civil society. Marta Bodo (Romania) and Michal Hvorecky (Slovakia) compared the freedom they have to travel to those of colleagues in the past. Marta described a 16t” Century Act which is still causing divisions within Romania and Michal Hvorecky read from an autobiographical article in which he describes a camping holiday as a child when everyone else on the camp site suddenly fled over the border into Austria.
What is the Spirit saying to the Churches? -.J0HN ARNOLD
The Book of Revelation begins with seven letters with one thing in common, the last sentence: “Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches”. Then as now, no one could afford to ignore the challenge and the comfort of the Holy Spirit of God to the churches of their continent, however different their situations.
Twenty years ago we were experiencing the birth pangs of a new age, overwhelmed by the release of pent up forces, and in our weakness not even knowing how to pray as we ought, only trusting that the Spirit would take our inarticulate groans and cries and turn them into prayer according to the will of God.
For forty years I, like many others, had been praying for the end of the Cold War and for the demolition of the Berlin Wall, which was its most potent and most blatant symbol. Now I have learned that, when we prayed and our prayers remained unanswered for so long, life was difficult; but when our prayers were answered, life became impossible, impossibly difficult but also infinitely more worthwhile, as we moved from false clarity into genuine confusion. The danger was that the confusion would lead to anarchy and chaos, to destruction and despair. The Christian hope was that it would lead to a world set free from bondage to decay, to a world more humain and therefore more divine, enjoying the glorious liberty of the children of God. The interim result, as always in humain history, is somewhere in between.
II. The Call to Fellowship
Churches are challenged to provide for community, for fellowship, for the nurturing of truly human relationships at a level between the blind impersonal forces of politics, economics and nationalism on the one hand, and the despairing egotism of the isolated individual on the other. For these are among the spirits, which were hastening to enter the room of Central and Eastern European consciousness, now swept clean of the evil spirit of Marxist¬Leninism and open to seven even more wicked spirits.
Another of these was hardness of heart, consistently taught as a virtue in communist states to such an extent that, it is said, the words for compassion, mercy and loving kindness were no longer to be found in Soviet Russian dictionaries. The emphasis was on being tempered like steel, not on being tender and loving. It was for Christians to bring back compassion into societies, which had forgotten the very word. And the task was made more difficult by the sudden and unprepared arrival of Western capitalist attitudes, which appeared to justify new forms of hardheartedness, ostensibly more attractive because more effective than the old ones. We have to ask, ‘Effective for whom?’ As the churches of Central and Eastern Europe struggled to meet the new opportunities for service and evangelism in their societies, they also had to cope with the appalling entail of long years lived in totalitarian police states. The unlocking of secret files and simply of memories led to endless recrimination, envy and malice and to a poisonous mixture of cheap forgiveness and un-assuaged guilt. Christians needed to listen again to the words of Jesus Christ: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” and recommit themselves to the fellowship, which had meant so much in the darkest days of the Cold War.
And it is precisely the New Testament concept of fellowship, koinonia, communion or community, which is the Christian antidote to atomistic individualism, to chauvinistic nationalism and to monolithic internationalism. For koénonia, while stressing those things which are held in common favours diversity, freedom and spontaneity. That it is chiefly concerned with relationships both human and divine is shown by the company it keeps in the well known phrase: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship (koindnia) of the Holy Spirit be with you ail.” It is the key concept in ail contemporary attempts to describe the nature of the unity, which Christians and Christian churches should seek. But it may aiso be part of our vision of the unity we seek for the peoples and nations of Europe.
III. Eastern and Central European Disintegration
Under Communist tyranny the combination of religion and nationalism played a large part in many places in keeping alive the hope of eventual liberation from an atheist ideology and an alien regime. This combination now became extremeiy ambiguous and extremely dangerous. The Christian churches are responsible, historically, both for the unity and for the disunity of Europe. The most intractable problems, as we stili see from time to time in Ulster, occur where social and ethnic hostilities are reinforced by religious difference and vice versa. It had been my hope that the solution to our problem in the United Kingdom and Ireland would lie in the Europeanization of Ulster. After ail, what is the meaning of a border between the Six Counties and the rest of Ireland in a Europe with no internai borders at ail? The Republic of Ireland has been transformed by its integration into the European Community; and we may look for comparable changes in the Irish Churches. The Europeanization of Ulster was my dream. My nightmare was the Ulsterisation of Europe. As the tide of Marxist-Leninist hegemony went out, many old differences emerged from under the sea of common misery between the Orthodox Romanian majority and the German and Magyar Protestant and Roman Catholic minorities in Transylvania, for example, and between the Roman Catholic Croats and the Orthodox Serbs in former Yugoslavia, where the end of the Cold War brought hot war back to the European mainland for the first time since the 1940s. Yet, as recently as 1989 the churches had said together at the European Ecumenical Assembly in Basel: “There are no situations in our countries or on our continent in which violence is required or justified.°
At the end of an age, which proudly claimed to be an age of socialist internationalism, it is still a task for the churches to avoid the perils of combined ethnic and reügious strife; and to keep faith with the New Testament understanding of the church as a supra-national fellowship and of discipleship as conveying a common citizenship. As St Paul wrote to the Philippians “Our citizenship is in Heaven.” Can we make our own the vision of the second century writer of the Epistle to Diognetus? “Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. They dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practise an extraordinary kind of life, yet the nature of their citizenship is marvellous, and contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in ail things as citizens, but they endure ail hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is home to them and every homeland foreign.”
IV. Western and Central European Integration
There is a challenge in this early Christian vision to both nationalism and to internationalism. No one can claim that their position is the only possible Christian one, but there is a place for Christian discipleship in the discussion, first because our ecumenical understanding of the catholicity of the Church commits us to keeping open a vision, which embraces the whole of Europe, a Europe open to the rest of the world; and secondly because the European institutions, which are unique in the world, though unequivocally rejecting ecclesiastical control or interference, ail welcome the active participation of the churches in the building of the new Europe. They actively seek their help in giving it a heart and a soul as well as a mind and a body. Jacques DELoRS himself said the 1980s: “If in the next ten years we have not managed to give a soul to Europe, to give it spontaneity and meaning, the game will be up. That is why I want to revive the intellectual and spiritual debate on Europe. I would like to create a meeting place, a space for free discussion open to women and men of spirituality, to believers and non-believers, to scientists and artists. We must find a way of involving the Churches.”
V. What lis Europe?
But what is this Europe of which we speak? With no clear geographical identity Europe can be defined as the area which had been contiguously Christianised by the end of the Middle Ages. Though astonishingly diverse in languages, tribes and nations, Europe was unified by a single faith. Even schism between Eastern and Western Christianity and the fragmentation of the Western churches at the Reformation did not destroy belief in the underlying unity of European culture and civilization and a sense of its distinctiveness from the rest of the world. The chronicler Isidore PacErvsis, who describes as Europeenses those who fought with the Franks against the Muslims in 732 AD. From then on Europe was identified with Christendom, until the rise of secularism in modern times.
It now means the territory of historic Christendom from the Atlantic to the Ural, despite the facts that Judaism and Islam contributed a great deal more to the making of Europe than has generally been acknowledged, many Europeans do not now believe in Christianity, there are many more Christians in other parts of the globe and there are many immigrants and some converts to other world faiths in Europe. Major attempts in the twentieth century, however, to replace Christianity as the spiritual and mental guide of Europe, either by neo-paganism in its Fascist form or by atheism in its Marxist-Leninist form, have failed. We may well be the first generation in history to belong not only to a post-religious but also to a post-atheist era. And, while it is no longer possible to define Europe as being essentially over against Islam, it is simply alarmist to predict an Islamic future for our continent. Europe is a bigger threat to Islam than Islam is to Europe, as second and third generation immigrants fall prey, just as much as do Christians, to the prevailing secularism. Whether or not this will continue to be the case for both religions remains to be seen.
VI. Europe and the World
Increased internai integration has sharpened the questions about the relationship of Western Europe to the rest of the world. The problems associated with large-scale movements of people, with refugees and migrants, have increased. Countries like Italy and Ireland, which understood themselves as countries of emigration, have had to re¬adjust to immigration; and the churches have to deal with questions not only of aid and care, but also of the rebirth of right-wing populist political activity, sometimes in their own midst. 1992 was the fifth centenary of 1492 and of the so-called discovery of America. The sounds of celebration of a Europe sans Frontières were well nigh drowned out by cries of anguish from Latin America and the Caribbean about five hundred years of conquest, slavery and exploitation. Some of the ethical bills of history, like the ecological bills of nature, are now being presented for payment.
Europe has taken much from the world. It has also given much to the world; but science¬based technology, which is transforming our planet – the most powerful, effective and potentially beneficial of our gifts – is a poisoned chalice. It is poisoned by the worst of ail our schisms, the one between religion and science, which has left us on the one hand with fanatical forms of Christian faith, which have parted company with reason and with evidence, and on the other hand with a means of exploitation of persons and of nature, which has parted company with respect for God, for humankind, for life and for the good Earth itself. Fortunately, there are signs of rapprochement, and the furthering of an alliance between religion and science for the good of ail humankind must surely be one of the chief tasks for Europeans in the coming decade. If we dont do it, who will?
But the schism between religion and science is not the only problem, which Europe has exported to the world and must solve if the world is to know peace. There is aiso the political and spiritual problem of developing a truly human society. After more than forty years of stagnation there was the opportunity after 1989 for real political movement in Europe, an opportunity, which was largely missed. While it looked as if Communism had lost the battle for hearts and minds, it could not be said that capitalism as a total world¬view had won. It just looked as if there was no alternative. The closer it comes to triumphing totally, the more questions are raised, as they are by the Holy Father in his recent encyclical, about its capacity to control itself, to heed the cries of the poor at home and abroad, to seek the paths of justice and of peace, to care tenderly for the Earth, which alone can sustain growth and affluence and the precious gift of life itself, and to provide a society in which ail can participate and make their contribution to the common good.
This latter point in particular poses a challenge to the churches, which are the guardians and bearers of the ideal of fellowship. If the tide of democracy comes in ail over Europe, the European churches will not be able to remain as an archipelago of pre-democratic structures and attitudes; they will find themselves summoned to more open, more egalitarian and more participatory ways themselves in accordance with their own best insights, and to the unity, which they profess in the Creed but fail to manifest in their lives, a unity which they owe to the world not least in reparation for the disunity, which they have exported to the world.
VII. Christian Unity
We have to face the fact that, so far as unity is concerned, the nations of Europe have made more progress than have the churches, which should have led the way. The Leuenberg Agreement of 1974 has not led to many, or indeed any, actual unions. The map of European Protestantism is as much a patchwork quilt as it ever was, with some making a virtue out of necessity and speaking of the actual fragmentation of the churches as though that were itself the God-given diversity. But the divisions of Protestantism weaken its witness, its service and its ability to develop a coherent strategy towards Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy and towards Europe itself.
We ail owe an enormous debt of gratitude to East German Protestantism for the role it played in the fall of the Berlin Wall and of Communism. By its participation in the conciliar process for Peace, Justice and the Integrity of Creation and by forming a whole nation in the theory and practice of peaceful protest, it saved Germany from civil war and Europe, indeed the whole world, from a potential Third World War, which would have been an unimaginable catastrophe. That a revolution could occur in Germany of ail places without a single shot being fired or drop of blood being shed is a miracle of discipleship to the Prince of Peace, which is rapidly being forgotten and ought to be remembered. Shortly after the revolution, however, the masses of people who had flocked to the Prayers for Peace, which had under girded the demonstrations, ceased to go to church. Once they had reached their destination, the passengers got off the bus, and East Germany is now among the most secularised places in Europe.
Meanwhile, the most successful unity conversations were those between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Scandinavian, Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches, leading to The Porvoo Common Statement and Declaration 1992. The resulting ‘Porvoo’ Communion of about twenty-five million Lutherans with about twenty-five million Anglicans is a significant feature of the European ecumenical map; and it will certainly be a stimulus to the eventual union of something like fifty million Lutherans and fifty million Anglicans at world level. Other churches are beginning to take an interest in the Porvoo methodology, and it is particularly attractive to ecumenically-minded Roman Catholics, as it offers a model of union between equal partners with no hint of dominance and subservience; and it is wholly consistent with the fine formula of the Malines conversations 1921-25 “unie, non absorbée” and the noble words of Pope Paul VI in 1970: ‘There will be no seeking to lessen the legitimate prestige and worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican church when the Roman Catholic Church…is able to embrace her ever beloved Sister in the one authentic communion of the family of Christ…’ The ‘worthy patrimony of usage’ included then a married clergy; it includes now women priests and it will include women bishops.
VIII. The Roman Catholüc Church
At the same time we have to reckon that, with the significant exception of Great Britain and Scandinavia, relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the other churches in Europe deteriorated rapidly in the years following 1989. The speed with which it established or at least re-established itself in Central and Eastern Europe alarmed Protestants and infuriated the Orthodox. Many people had assumed that the Catholic Churches of Central and Eastern Europe, which had been prevented from participating fully in the Second Vatican Council and implementing its decrees, would now, as it were, be given the opportunity to catch up. In fact, almost exactly the opposite happened. The lesson was drawn that survival had depended on unswerving maintenance of the tradition and absolute loyalty to the Papacy; and this lesson was taught as the clue to revival as well as survivai to the more liberal churches of Western Europe.
The 1990s saw the publication by the Vatican of a large number of documents of varied levels of external authority and intrinsic quality, beginning with Veritatis Splendor 1993. The best, such as Ut unum sint on Christian Unity 1995, are very good indeed and an inspiration to the rest of us, as are the subsequent encyclicals of Pope Benedict XVI. Best of all, perhaps, was the Joint Statement with the Lutherans on The Doctrine of Justification 1997, though subsequent attempts to rehabilitate indulgences suggest that the implications have not been fully digested. Others seemed, at least to a friendly observer such as myself, to imply that the Church at the centre was deeply suspicious of its own bishops, whose powers at any level between the local and the universal were so clearly delimited, of its own laity, who were still viewed primarily as helpers to the clergy, and especially of its own theologians, who in accordance with Ad tuendam fidem 1998 had to promise ‘to teach in accordance with the Magisterium, even when that teaching has not yet been formulated’. (George Orwell would have been proud of that sentence.) The Magisterium used to be ‘that which is taught by the bishops everywhere.’ It seems to have changed its meaning to ‘that which bishops everywhere are instructed to teach.’ They, and we, should be happy with the doctrine of salvation through Christ alone, so clearly set out in Dominus Jesus 2000, but less happy with its doctrine of the Church, which by ignoring the action of the Holy Spirit in all believers presents us instead with a purely juridical and historical institution, making exclusive claims ta be a church in the proper sense of the word. It upset many ecumenical partners and nearly prevented the publication of the Carta Ecumenica 2001, which sets out with admirable clarity the house rules for Churches to live together in Europe in the third millennium, and is a fruit of many years of happy collaboration between the Council of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in Europe and the Conference of European Churches.
Even if he did not overthrow communism single-handed, Pope John Paul II made an enormous impact on Europe in the manner of his death as well by the achievements of his life. Perhaps his most lasting legacy to the Catholic Church will turn out to be the very large number of Episcopal appointments, which he made on his own authority and in his own image during a long pontificate. It remains an open question whether the strong centralising tendency of the Papacy wili continue. Just as there is only one politico-military superpower in the world since 1989, so there is only one ecclesiastical superpower, which brings its own responsibilities, as well as opportunities. The media remain mesmerised by Rome; and that fascination is one of several things, which make us ask whether secularisation is not being accompanied by a new sacralisation of society. Meanwhile, the wholly unpredicted implosion of Catholic Ireland is leading to fears that something similar could happen in Poland or, indeed, anywhere where the passengers are getting off the bus.
Certainly in Western Europe religion as obligation has given way to religion as choice; and there are many encouraging indications of vitality, such as the German Kirchentags and of people choosing to follow Jesus Christ, but as individuals and small groups, rather than as whole nations or in mass movements.
IX. The Orthodox Churches
The tensions between Protestants and Roman Catholics are as nothing compared with the tensions between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church, especially with regard to the Eastern Rite Catholic (Uniate) churches and what is perceived as the expansion of the Roman Catholic Church into historically Orthodox lands, where Orthodoxy is re-establishing itself in whole nations after decades of persecution designed to destroy it utterly. Unfortunately in some places there are forceful elements in Orthodoxy, which are restorationist, anti-western and anti-ecumenical. We need each other’s help in preserving the true tradition whilst shedding the wrong sort of traditionalism, as we move out of the past with its mental and political tyrannies into Europe as it hopefully will be in the third millennium of the Christian era, traditional in doctrine and liturgy, democratic in its structures, open in its decision-making, egalitarian in its relationships between women and men. One sign of hope is the re-birth and revitalization of the religious life in Eastern Europe, unlike anything in the West, except perhaps in the ecumenical community at Taizé.
The relationship with Western Europe, not surprisingly, remains problematical. The historic Orthodox lands wish to benefit from the financial, social and political advances of the West, but they have not had the experience of the long march through the Renaissance, the Reformation and especially the Enlightenment, which made them possible and which the pillars of the European Union – the rule of law, pluralist democracy, human rights and religious freedom – simply take for granted. So membership of the European Union requires spiritual and cultural as well as political and economic development and understanding on all sides. Again, there are signs of hope. Our churches need each other. They need unity both for its own sake and also as a sign to the world, not a bleak, enforced, monolithic unity but the personal unity for which Jesus Christ prayed on the night in which he was betrayed: “That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that thou has sent me.”
X. The Challenge of Mission
In that great period of the renewal of the Church, which we cali the Reformation and the Roman Catholic Renewal (Cou nter-Reformation), the mission to Europe and indeed to the world was carried out with courage and conviction, but also with a competitiveness and cruelty, which eventually was self-defeating. It was precisely the conflicts and wars of religion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which secularised the mind of Europe in the eighteenth century and left the churches ill prepared to cope with the industrial, political and intellectual revolutions of more recent times. To our shame it was our divisions as well as our devotion to the good news, which our missionaries took into the world. No wonder that Cardinal Martini and I in our Presidents’ message from the European Ecumenical Encounter on Evangelisation in Santiago 1990 said, ‘No to competition. Yes to co-operation.’ For now there is a new chance, a new opportunity for renewal and for missionising the nations of Europe, which whether or not recently emancipated from dialecticai materialism, have all become increasingly vulnerable to the practical materialism.of the dominant socio-economic system. It will not do simply to replace the commissar with the consumer as the arbiter of what is right and good and true.
It remains one of the greatest challenges to make the good news of Jesus Christ credible, attractive and challenging to millions of Europeans who feel that their hopes and ideals have been betrayed as much by the churches as by political parties. Boris PASTERNAK is reported to have replied to a journalist questioning him about his religious beliefs: “I am an atheist, who has lost his faith.” Are our churches in a position to minister effectively to our fellow Europeans who are atheists who have lost their faith? There are probably at least as many of them as there are Christians who have lost theirs; and they require equally skilled and loving care. The spread of sects, new age thinking, occultism and astrology shows that, when people cease believing in God or Utopia, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything. Only the love of God and of neighbour, reveaied in Jesus Christ and shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, can lead them and us in the right way. Let anyone who has ears, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
The Very Revd John Arnold OBE is a former President of the Conférence of European Churches and Dean Emeritus of Durham
Delegates from eleven European countries attended the conference and there was much discussion, formal and informal, throughout the weekend. Two comments stand out “It has made me proud to be a European” and “I have become more positive about the future of the Church in Europe over the last three days than over the last ten years”.
The conference and the publication of this booklet was supported by the Newman Association, Pax Romana- ICMUICA (Europe), The Christian Centre Trust and an anonymous foundation.