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October 2016 Vol 55 No 4
The Spirit of Europe Today

The Role of Europe in the Last Three Papacies

In Francis, Benedict XVI and John-Paul II, the Roman Catholic Church has experienced three very different Popes. Each, though, has spoken repeatedly about the significance of Europe for the contemporary Church. Unsurprisingly, their assessments of this significance has been different, as Frank Turner shows here.

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‘Brexit’, Ignatius’ Jesus and the Road to Jerusalem

Referenda, such as the recent vote in Britain about the country’s continued membership of the European Union, risk promoting simple answers to questions of great complexity. This can seem very far from the nuanced processes of Ignatian discernment. Philip Endean argues here, though, that the UK referendum result reveals attitudes calling for just such a discerning approach.

A Consideration of Christianity’s Role in Pluralistic Society

Many European societies are characterized by pluralism, the more-or-less peaceful co-existence of people of many different religions, ethnic backgrounds, political outlooks and systems of belief. This can be a challenge to the Christian Church, formerly dominant throughout the continent. McKenna here presents a positive view of the Church’s role in the pluralistic Europe of today.

Living Together with Muslims in Europe and Overcoming Fear: A 'Spiritual Exercise’

Although Christians and Muslims have lived alongside each other in Europe for centuries, mass immigration of Muslims from other parts of the world in recent decades has highlighted the challenges that such proximity can present. Balhan here outlines a ‘spiritual exercise’ that can be used to face up to and explore such challenges.

Spirituality in a Post-Christian Europe

The loss of Christianity’s political and cultural dominance in Europe has led many to describe the continent as ‘post-Christian’. In Melloni’s view, the Church has left a legacy of spirituality that still has the potential to offer a powerful response to the needs of Europe’s citizens, even where the institutions that one enshrined this spirituality are rejected.

Pope Francis, Refugees and Recovering Europe's Soul

Pope Francis has described himself as one ‘called from the ends of the earth’ to the papacy. As an outsider, he has a particular view of both Europe’s current spiritual crisis and of how this crisis might be met. According to Maillard, Francis thinks that finding a just response to the needs of refugees could be an important part of this response.

Euoprean Spirituality: Not 'Either-Or' but 'Both-And'

‘O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!’ These words of the Scottish poet Robert Burns apply well to this article, in which George Pattery, a former Jesuit Provincial in India, offers a view of European spirituality as it appears from a part of the world with very different, rich and varied spiritual traditions.

Ramon Llull, a Master of Dialogue and Reconciliation

2016 marks the seventh centenary of the death of the lay Spanish Catalan philosopher and theologian Ramon Llull. Here, Nicolau Coll traces themes of dialogue and reconciliation which run through his published works. Growing out of his contact with Jews and Muslims, the ideas remain relevant to a continent in which dialogue between different faiths has a vital importance.

Why Does the History of Christian Spirituality Matter?

Faesen’s article starts by making a distinction between spirituality and its history. He believes that the latter has a great contemporary importance since ‘this history helps us to pay attention to the genuine encounter between God as God and the human person as human’. It is this encounter, in its turn, which lies at the heart of the Christian humanism that Europe spread throughout the world.

Ignatian Spirituality: Changes in Vision And Practice

It is widely recognised that the understanding of St Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises has been transformed in the last five decades. Here Mark Rotsaert traces elements of this evolution as it has developed in a European context, at the levels of both theory and practice. He pays particular attention to currents of mysticism in the thought of Ignatius.

From the Foreword

S PECIAL ISSUES of The Way, such as this one, are planned a long time in advance. The editorial board therefore tries to forecast which subjects might be topical when the edition goes to press. Sometimes an anniversary can ensure that this is so—in 2017, for example, we will be marking the five-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The current issue, though, is rather different. Admittedly we planned it when Europe was very much in the news in Britain, since a referendum on the country’s continued membership of the European Union had recently been called. It was unclear, though, whether this would still be a hot topic several months later.

In fact, the vote in June in favour of ‘Brexit’, the decision to withdraw from the Union, by a narrow majority, has meant that Europe has scarcely been out of news headlines since, not only here in the UK but in other parts of the world. The topicality of this issue is assured. That leads to a second question. The debate over Europe may be topical, but is it spiritual? The Way is, after all, a journal of Christian spirituality. Why should we devote an entire edition to what is, surely, a predominantly political issue?

The answer to that is, perhaps, simpler to state than to demonstrate. The Ignatian spirituality that underpins this journal holds that God is at work in our everyday world, and also that an important element of any Christian life is to be attentive to signs of God’s presence and activity. It is legitimate to ask, therefore, where signs of God at work can be found in Europe today, and in the political task of bringing the countries of what has frequently been a war-torn continent into a more peaceful and fruitful coexistence. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, a declaration central to Jesus’ Beatitudes, refers not simply to those who mediate between factions currently at war, but also to those who work quietly in the background to ensure that the conditions necessary for peace are maintained.

The varied articles presented in this issue all seek to trace ways in which the work of God can be experienced within the continent of Europe today. Frank Turner sets the scene by comparing how the last three popes have approached the realities of present-day life on this continent. Sébastien Maillard complements this by focusing more centrally on the non-European Pope Francis, who finds in the challenge presented by refugees a potential cure for some of Europe’s ills. From very different perspectives Mary Frances McKenna and Javier Melloni also argue that Christian spirituality still has important gifts to offer in areas that feel they have in many ways outgrown the Church.

The vote to leave the European Union came as an unwelcome shock to many in Britain, and Philip Endean, who shares this response, nevertheless tries to point out important lessons that it has to teach about the outlook of those who feel that they have little stake in society. The essay by Jean-Marc Balhan offers a ‘spiritual exercise’, in the Ignatian tradition, to reflect upon the impact that living closely alongside a group—believers in Islam, whom some would see as quintessential ‘outsiders’ in Europe—can have in deepening Christian faith.

Christianity has a history within Europe stretching back to its earliest days. Rob Faesen asks why this history has an importance for the issues we face today, while Augustí Nicolau Coll finds in the work of the fourteenth-century philosopher and theologian Ramon Llull themes of a continuing relevance. Mark Rotsaert confines his exploration to the last few decades, tracing the evolution of ways in which the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises have been studied and put into practice in a variety of European settings. George Pattery writes from an Indian perspective, allowing the reader another viewpoint on some of the questions addressed elsewhere in the issue.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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