Pre-synodal Symposium

Christ, the Source of a New Culture for Europe
on the Threshold of the New Millenium

Pre-synodal Symposium in the Vatican
11-14 January 1999

In the wake of the historic events which changed the face of Europe in 1989 and had lasting repercussions throughout the world, Pope John Paul II decided to convoke the first special Synod of Bishops for Europe. He asked the Pontifical Council for Culture to prepare the ground by means of a pre-synodal Symposium, which was held in the Vatican from 28 to 31 October 1991. The proceedings were later published in Italian, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, German and Portuguese.

During the ten years which have elapsed since then, a number of important events have transformed life throughout Europe. After the euphoria surrounding the collapse of the Berlin wall and the hopes raised by the implosion of the atheist Marxist-Leninist Soviet empire, there has been no shortage of disappointments. New tensions have appeared, and conflicts have erupted. These social, political and cultural changes have had a noticeable effect on the life of the Church. And the Holy Father has deemed it necessary to convoke a second special Synod of Bishops, which is due to be held in autumn 1999.

In this context it seemed opportune and important to convene a second pre-synodal Symposium, to take place from 11 to 14 January 1999 in the Vatican, with a view to offering the bishops some preparatory reflections by experts. Linking up with the theme of the second Synod of Bishops for Europe - Jesus Christ Alive in his Church, the Source of Hope for Europe - the second pre-synodal Symposium is entitled Christ, the Source of a New Culture for Europe on the Threshold of the New Millennium.

The four working days are envisaged as a positive and forward-looking consideration of these four basic dimensions:

  • I. Rediscovering the foundations: Philosophy and Theology, Anthropology and Science
  • II. "Ressourcement": Family and Education. School and University
  • III. Renewing the Humanities. Literature, Fine Arts, Communication
  • IV. Re-thinking human life in society: Nations and Cultures, Ethics, Economics and Politics.

This pre-synodal Symposium fits quite naturally into the dynamic process whereby, urged on by the Holy Father, the whole Church is being guided towards the Third Millennium: this new era of humanity began with the coming of Christ, who is eternal Wisdom, God’s Thought and substantial image, born of God and given to the world through the Virgin Mary, light from light, principle of all things and archetype of humankind.

On the threshold of the Third Millennium, the Church is meditating on the mystery of Christ, the incarnate Word, and thence draws strength for a new evangelisation of the people of Europe, who have been schooled by the Gospel for two thousand years, but never without searching questions.

So, by proposing Christ as the source of a new culture for Europe on the threshold of the new Millennium, we can counter our culture’s abandonment of metaphysics and its forgetfulness of the essential nature of the human person, who is created in God’s image and likeness, redeemed by Christ and given life by his Holy Spirit of understanding, wisdom and love.

Since the demise of the dominant ideologies, Europe has fallen prey to other temptations: the idea of reducing philosophy and anthropology to human sciences, and theology to religious sciences, the dismemberment of the family, unrest in education, a loss of confidence in schools and universities, the abandonment of the humanities, artistic symbolism divorced from reality, people worn out by the cultural divisions in society, the resurgence of nationalism, the profound crisis in ethics, convulsions in the economy, and the apparent inability of politicians to discover new strategies which would do justice to mankind’s legitimate expectations at this decisive moment in history.

The pre-synodal Symposium will gather together men and women from across the cultural spectrum of Europe and will help them blaze the trail towards a new culture for Europe, one which is inspired by Christ, who "fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear" (Gaudium et spes No. 22).

The human person needs to be fully rediscovered, metaphysically and mystically. Anthropological reflection will help in rethinking philosophy and the mystical dimension, and will give Christology and trinitarian theology fresh energy. The human being is a person who lives in community, and the primary human community is the family. A child’s education for service to society starts in the family, and continues at school and often also at university.

The fullness of the human person, "this little God", is manifest in all its goodness, truth, unity and beauty. Literature and Fine Art are an expression of it. Communications media are a part of it. Society is made up of these living stones, men and women, whose economic activity, regulated by politics and based on ethical values, is carried out in nations whose living soul is their culture.

Such is the truth about man, revealed in its fullness by Christ, who is the source of a new culture for Europe on the threshold of the new millennium. Together, the contributions to our Symposium will make it possible to rediscover its foundations, to refresh its institutions, to express it anew and to rethink all of its dimensions.

Clearly the contributions of women and men of culture of this continent, made as part of a constructive and fraternal dialogue, will offer the bishops of Europe an invaluable aid for their deliberations at the Synod of the Great Jubilee: "Jesus Christ alive in his Church, the source of hope for Europe".

* * * * *


I. Rediscovering the foundations:
Philosophy and Theology, Anthropology and Science

Monday 11 January morning, 9 a.m.
Chairman: Nikolaus Lobkowicz
, Eichstätt, Germany

1. Stanislaw Grygiel, Rome, Italy
A new man, recreated by Christ, who will build a new Europe.

2. Bruno Forte, Naples, Italy
The Trinity, the model for the community of European peoples.

3. Julij Schreider, Moscow, Russia
Christ, the source of a new culture for Europe.

4. Karen Nazaryan, Yerevan and Etchmiadzin, Armenia
From East to West: a new culture and spirituality for Europe.

Monday 11 January afternoon, 3 p.m.
Chairperson: Irina Alberti Ilovajskaja, Moscow, Russia

5. Nataliya Kochan, Kyiv, Ukraine
The truth revealed in Christ about man: challenges of lived anthropology.

6. Alejandro Llano, Pamplona, Spain
A fresh understanding. A new way of thinking about man in the light of the Incarnate Word.

7. Per Beskow, Lund, Sweden
Christian Identity in a secularized cultural Environment.

8. Vincenzo Cappelletti, Rome, Italy
For a new scientific culture. From scientistic mechanics to the new life sciences. "Anyone who has never experienced mystery is like an eye which has never seen light". (Einstein).

9. Ioan Icã, Bucarest, Romania
Renewing Christian thought and the spiritual unity of Europe. Person and Communion.

II. A Return to the Sources:
The Family and Education. School and University

Tuesday 12 January morning, 9 a.m.
Chairman: Radim Palouš
, Prague, Czech Republic

1. Maria de Jesus Barroso Soares, Lisbon, Portugal
A renewal of Christian education in the face of the challenges of the Third Millenium.

2. Julián Marías, Madrid, Spain
Rooting Christian culture in the heritage of European Humanities.

3. William Stainsby, Co. Donegal, Ireland
Strengthening and promoting family life as the generator and transmitter of Christian Culture.

4. Anita Stašulane, Riga, Latvia
Education "that the world may believe".

5. Ivan Dejanov, Skopje, Macedonia
Mens sana in corpore sano. For a new paideia - humanitas - sapientia.

Tuesday 12 January afternoon 3 p.m.
Chairman: Björn Bjarnason, Reykjavik, Iceland

6. Herman De Dijn, Leuven, Belgium
The future of the University: A Plea for a new Christian Humanism in Education

7. Hanna Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, Dresden, Germany
Technology and Religion. Handing on a unified body of knowledge. Towards a unifying wisdom.

8. Anatol Gryckievic, Minsk, Byelorussia
Educating the Christian spirit of Europe from East to West at the crossroads of peoples and cultures.

9. Toni Nikolov, Sofia, Bulgaria
Working towards a renewal of European philosophy: the courage to recover an openness to the religious dimension of existence.

10. Nodar Ladaria, Tbilisi, Georgia
Renewing thinking by rooting it in Christ, the source of intellectual and spiritual discovery in the New Millenium.

III. Renewing the Humanities. Literature, Fine Art, Communication

Wednesday 13 January morning, 9 a.m.
Chaiperson: Päivi Setälä, Helsinki, Finland

1. Patrick de Laubier, Geneve, Swizerland
A new Christian humanism for the New Millenium.

2. Ágnes Osztovics, Budapest, Hungary
Verum et bonum. Unum et pulchrum.

3. Vincent Carraud, Caen, France
The unique place Christ has in the renewal of the Humanities.

4. Krzysztof Zanussi, Krakow, Poland
Christianity, a source of inspiration for the cinema.

5. Dominique Ponnau, Paris, France
Christianity, an ancient but ever new source of beauty.

Wednesday 13 January afternoon 3 p.m.
Chairman : Willy Gjon Kamsi, Tirana, Albania

6. Léon Zeches, Luxembourg
Informing and forming without deforming. Evangelising daily life.

7. Zbigniew Nosowski, Warsaw, Poland
From facts to commentary. A Christian inspiration for public opinion.

8. Peter Ryom, Copenhagen, Denmark
Opening the media to beauty, the splendour of the truth: the challenge of sacred music in the XXIst century.

9. Cristina Odone, London, Great Britain
Writing as a vehicle of Christian values.

10. Karl Gervin, Oslo, Norway
"Man and society". A culture based on the Beatitudes.

IV. Re-thinking human life in society:
Nations and Cultures, Ethics, Economics and Politics

Thursday 14 January morning, 9 a.m.
Chairman: Censu Tabone
, Valetta, Malta

1. Zeljko Mardešic, Split and Zadar, Croatia
For an evangelical ressourcement: nations, cultures and languages.

2. Ghelian Mikhailovich Prokhorov, Saint Petersburg, Russia
The anamnesis of Christ: the antidote to the source of a whole new Christian way of imagining things for the new Millennium.

3. Edmond Malinvaud, Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Vatican City
A culture of economic solidarity inspired by the Gospel.

4. Andrés Bajuk, Ljubljana, Slovene
Economic growth and the renewal of Christian culture.

5. Chiara Lubich, Rome, Italy
For a civilisation of love. Man and woman in society.

Thursday 14 January afternoon, 3 p.m.
Chairman: Federico Mayor, UNESCO, Paris, France

6. Cyril Svoboda, Prague, Czech Republic
Christ in the melting pot of nations and at the heart of peoples. A new Christian culture for Europe in the Third Millennium.

7. Maria J.T. Martens, Utrecht, Netherlands
Crating a community of persons empowered by a civilisation of love.

8. Dr Ján Szelepcsényi, Trnava, Slovak Republic
For a rebirth of Christianity in Europe.

9. Savas Agourides, Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece
From a wounded Europe to a Europe reconciled by a "return to the Christian roots which shaped the continent's life and culture" (John Paul II).

10. Herbert Schambeck, Linz, Austria
"It is necessary to give Europe a soul today and to mould her conscience" (John Paul II)