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The Lost Continent

Clifford Longley

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"When the cardinals enter the conclave to elect the next pope, one of the most urgent issues they face -- as will John Paul II's successor -- is how the Church can connect once more with Europe, its former heartland"

Preaching as principal celebrant at the solemn funeral Mass for John Paul II in St Peter's Square, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had to pause several times for prolonged waves of applause from the largely youthful crowd to subside. It must have been with mixed feelings that he stood stiffly waiting, his normally impeccable coiffure blown everywhere by the wind. The death of the Pope had drawn some three million young people to Rome for the final farewell. But they came and took part on their own terms. Although a recent ruling from the Vatican had banned applause during the liturgy as unseemly, even on this most formal of occasions, they hadn't taken any notice.

The cardinals soon to gather in conclave will have been puzzled and challenged by what they saw and heard that day. High on the agenda of the next papacy, everyone agrees, is the "crisis" of the secularisation of Europe, the falling Mass attendances and empty seminaries across the continent, the decline in Christianity as a guiding force in European culture, and the actual antipathy towards it in growing sections of the population. Even the countries of Eastern Europe, recently liberated from atheist Communism, have seen nothing like the renaissance of faith that many in the Vatican, including the late Pope, were expecting and praying for.

Read the entire article on The Tablet website (new window will open).

Posted: 16-Apr-05



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