Emperor Pope Benedict XVI declined the invitation to address the European Parliament this year owing to other commitments and his age. Unofficially, according to sources in this Times report, it’s because of the church hierarchy’s “great disillusionment” with the European project as the EU “has become more and more secularist”. Besides concern with the Anglican church’s supernatural well-being, secularism was at the forefront of the thoughts of one of the three cardinals despatched to the Lambeth Conference. Cardinal Ivan Dias’ concern was reported in the Times.
He described modern secularism as being engaged in “spiritual combat” with the Church. The Cardinal said: “This combat rages fiercely even today, aided and abetted by secret sects, satanic groups and New Age movements, to mention but a few, and reveals many ugly heads of the hideous antiGod monster: among them are notoriously secularism, which seeks to build a godless society; spiritual indifference, which is insensitive to transcendental values; and relativism, which is contrary to the permanent tenets of the gospel.”
Well, that’s me told. No wonder some of those secularists are wary of the reasons behind the declining of that invitation. As self-declared humanist MEP Mary Honeyball, writing at CommentisFree, puts it
Pope Benedict XVI’s refusal to address the European parliament for fear it is becoming “militantly secularist” initially struck me, a humanist MEP, a triumph of equality and rationality for the EU. But on deeper reflection, I think it’s a cop-out of the grandest scale, setting a dangerous precedent for other cultural and religious leaders to “opt out” of EU proceedings if they are dissatisfied with their values and methods. By refusing to take part in the parliament’s Year of Intercultural Dialogue, the pontiff is effectively holding the EU to ransom. Declining to speak to MEPs, giving the excuse of other commitments and his age, sends out a very clear message: “Unless you play by my rules, I’m not taking part.”
Still, there are always other projects to occupy his time..