TribuneKlaus Küng

Church in Central Europe: "Do not be afraid; it is enough that you have faith".

In recent decades there has been an erosion of Christian life in countries with a long tradition, for example in Central Europe. However, the author points out that there are many reasons for optimism, and offers a guideline for moving forward.

October 4, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes

In his homily at the concluding Mass of the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Pope Francis started from Jesus' question to the disciples: "And you, who do you say I am?" (Mk 8:29).

The Pope said that this question put the disciples in difficulty and marks a change of direction in their journey in pursuit of the Master. "They knew Jesus well, they were no longer beginners. They were familiar with Him, they had witnessed many of His miracles, they marveled at His teaching, they followed Him wherever He went, but, nevertheless, they did not think like Him. The decisive step was missing, that which goes from admiration to imitation of Jesus.". And the Pope concluded: "Also today the Lord, fixing his gaze on each one of us, questions us personally: 'But who am I really to you?'".

In recent decades, the situation in society and in the Church has been changing rapidly. Even in countries with a very long Christian tradition, a process of erosion of the life of faith has been set in motion that has swept away many, especially the younger generations.

Many lose sight of God, they live as if God does not exist. Pope Benedict has described it by saying that a new Religion is being born, a religion without God. It explains the world without God, and man is tempted to live his life according to his own ideas, even to act as if he himself were God. And almost always, even before, there was a distancing from the Church, a darkening of faith in Christ, in Salvation, in his sacraments, in his word, in his presence in the world through the Church and her faithful.

Seeing the current situation in parishes, in schools, in the workplace and, many times, in one's own family, the question posed by Jesus becomes more acute: "But I, who am I really to you?". And the Pope notes that "a correct, catechism response is not enough, but it must be a personal response, a life response.".

The Lord's question makes itself felt in the various situations (both outwardly and inwardly) that in innumerable variations present themselves to us. And even if we have responded so many times with an act of faith and trust in the Lord and in his help, it will be necessary to give the answer again: Yes, I believe in you, I believe that you are the Son of God made man, born of the Virgin Mary, and that you are present, you seek us, you wait for us, you save us; we want to follow you.

Moreover, if we take a good look at the present situation of the Church, we will realize that even if the situation is really difficult and many churches are emptying - in some European countries they are even being sold - in the same places there are almost always some churches that are filling up, because there are faithful who are seeking the Lord. If they have discovered what the Holy Mass is, they are ready to make great sacrifices to be able to participate; and if they notice that confession is good for them, that they need it, they do everything possible to find a good priest and they want to go to confession. Sooner or later what the Lord said to his disciples is confirmed: "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world." (Jn 16:33).

Seeking the Lord, faith is awakened and a path is opened. A movement begins among people who believe, or are beginning to believe, which leads them to gather around the Lord, who says: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Mt 11:28).

Pope Francis has set up a synodal process for the universal Church, and the first two points to be examined are those of "walking together" and of "listen".

There are many reasons to be optimistic. I often remember, precisely in the present situation, how St. Josemaría, in the 1960s and 1970s, spoke to us very forcefully about how we have to learn to "storm" the tabernacle and love the Holy Mass, to ask our Lord and unite ourselves with him. He insisted very much that we should be courageous, speaking of God to everyone, without false fears and with a big heart, open to all. God is a forgiving Father, he tirelessly instilled in us. It was a prophetic vision.

All this encourages us to go forward, closely united to the Holy Father and to all those who are united to him. As to the leader of the Synagogue, Jesus says to us: "Fear not; it is enough that you have faith." (Mk 5:36).

The authorKlaus Küng

Bishop emeritus of Sankt Pölten, Austria.

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