World Youth Day 2011 is an important moment in Pope Benedict XVI's campaign to remind Europe of its Christian roots and to call Europe to a nobler understanding of democracy, writes George Weigel on ABC Online.
As the Holy Father demonstrated in a recent address in Zagreb, the two parts of that campaign - the recovery of Christian roots and the deepening of 21st-century Europe's idea of democracy - go together.
In remarks to Croatia's religious, political, business and cultural leaders in Zagreb's National Theatre, the Pope refined into six digestible propositions the case he has been making about religion-and-society ever since his election to the papacy in 2005:
1. Religious conviction is not something outside society; it is part of society's inner core: "Religion is not a separate area marked off from society...[but] a natural element within society, constantly recalling the vertical dimension: attentive listening to God as the condition for seeking the common good, for seeking justice and reconciliation in the truth."
2. The human element in religion is imperfect and flawed; there is no shame in admitting this, for reason can help refine religious passion: "Religions need always to be purified according to their true essence in order to correspond to their true mission."
3. Ancient religions should welcome the political achievements of modernity while calling modernity to open its windows and doors to a world of transcendent truth and love:
"... the great achievements of the modern age - the recognition and guarantee of freedom of conscience, of human rights, of the freedom of science and hence of a free society - should be confirmed and developed while keeping reason and freedom open to their transcendent foundation, so as to ensure that these achievements are not undone ...
"The quality of social and civil life and the quality of democracy depend in large measure on this critical point - conscience, on the way it is understood and the way it is informed."
FULL STORY World Youth Day and the future of Europe (ABC Online)