Italian Bishops' President Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti

Cardinal Bassetti warns “culture of European humanism in deep crisis”

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti has blasted the “egoistic, nihilist, consumerist and xenophobic” spirit that marks the modern world, saying that more than “prophets” what society needs today are “meek” but “authentic” and “revolutionary” Christians.

Driving the news

Bassetti, the Archbishop of Perugia, in Italy, was speaking in an interview with Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano about what the Church can and should offer a world in crisis.

The President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference decried the fact that the 9/11 terrorist attacks marked the irruption in the world of an exclusivist culture of identity.

The hard difference we make today between “enemy” and “friend” prevents the exercise of the classical duty of pietas (“duty”, “loyalty”) and denies ignores Catholic universalism, explained Bassetti.

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The big picture

Echoing a thought of Pope Francis, Bassetti explained that we live today not so much an epoch of change as an “epochal change”.

This “epochal change” has been brought about by three factors, said the cardinal: globalisation, the global financial crisis of 2008 and secularisation.

Bassetti affirmed that globalisation “has transcended the old geographical, cultural and moral boundaries of the planet, displacing the world’s centre of gravity to the East”.

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He added that the economic crisis “did away with all kinds of social, psychological and identity certainties of Western and in particular European society”.

The disbelief “that attacks the foundations of the Church’s life”, meanwhile, “is not just ideological and secularist but blandly consumerist and nihilist”, said Bassetti.

“I would dare to say it’s a secularisation reduced to worldly survival: ‘Every man for himself’, ‘dog eat dog’ or ‘survival of the fittest’ could be its slogans”, denounced Bassetti.

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Go deeper

The cardinal said that the triple “earthquakes” of globalisation, economic crisis and secularisation mean that “the sacredness of life, the holiness of the family and society’s throw-aways like beggars and migrants” have become a “scandal”.

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In such a situation, Bassetti added, the Church must move beyond “projects of pastoral engineering” and embrace “the humility and faith of the smallest”.

“We need a Church that shows the world the glorious cross of Christ and announces the good news with pure joy, without sectarianism or fanaticism”, Bassetti insisted.

“Quite frankly, it would be enough for Christians to be authentic: meek and revolutionary, at the same time. Meekness in the sense that they remember the faith and sobriety in behaviour. Revolutionary in the sense that they go against the spirit of the world”, the cardinal added.

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.
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