Europe, as historical reality, was born in the aftermath of the second world war before the sad spectacle of death and destruction that raged for years. Yet, to the pessimism of those years, thanks to the dynamism and to the strong will of the founding fathers, succeeded hope, in the awareness that it would have been possible to build a united Europe in small steps.
The ethical imperative to turn the page and to reconstruct the future starting from the ruins left behind by the war, was necessary to the consciences. Experiences such as those that took place were not to be repeated, and for this reason the attempt to lay the foundations on which to build the new process of unification ensued.
But it was essential to proceed further also in the sense of a genuine spiritual unification. It is appropriate, in fact, to draw the attention to the constitution of a spirit of European identity that transcends the individual nationalities and overcomes the so-called bonds of blood and race in favour of a new identity, formed by the “unity in diversity”. We recall in this regard the words of De Gasperi: “It is the desire of a united policy which must prevail. It is the categorical imperative that we must make Europe to ensure our peace, our progress and our social justice that must first and foremost serve as guide…”.
Therefore, in front of the evident crisis of the European Union, it is questionable whether the rebirth of the same Union today can be determined by political establishments and bureaucratic structures that no longer enjoy the trust of the electoral bodies of reference that instead perceive them distant if not devastating.
The democratic deficit of the European Union is given by the fact that the peoples have never actually been involved in the various processes of the constitution and of the reform. The Union can be reborn only on the basis of a new pact between the peoples and not between the powers.
And then it is worth to remember a historical horizon still farther than that indicated in the opening: I am referring to the monasticism. If I had to give a symbolic birth to modernity in Europe, I would choose an unexpected date: the 529, the year in which the monastery of Monte Cassino was founded. It is then that Europe was born, when Saint Benedict scattered his monks to build a network that since then has always continued. He launched his monks on the basis of a motto that we all know: “Ora et labora“. It is with this intuition – putting together the prayer, the invocation and the contemplation, the love for the world and for other human beings, with the work of the hand, and only in this way – that it had been possible to come out from the past, from the catastrophe of the ancient world, from what had happened a century before, when in three tremendous days Rome was destroyed by the Visigoths.
From Saint Benedict and the Benedictines begins the profound insight that the truth is entrusted to the joint work of watching the sky and operate with your hands on earth, to the work of joining these two poles, the spiritual one and the material one. This is the big difference of western monasticism with respect to all the contemplative oriental monasticism, this is Europe: the monks are Europe! They built their abbeys according to the criterion that from one you had to see the other and they taught the people to pray and to work understanding the fruit of human work, sanctifying it.
These are things that can be said without necessarily being religious, but understanding the deeply Christian foundation of Europe as a historical fact; from here the absurdity of objections on recalling the Christian roots in the preamble of the European Union. Europe has been built exactly on the basis of this identity that differentiated it from the East, which defined a project. Project that then in the schools, in the craft workshops, in the arsenals, in the projects of cartography of the Italians, of the Portuguese, of the Spanish and then in the great geographical spread throughout the world, has determined the profile of Europe, determined by the union of art of hands and talent: geography, ability to write the project in the land, technology and, finally, science.
Today we are all called to respond to the task that awaits us, to contribute actively to the creation and consolidation of this spirit as well as to the removal of borders starting from the internal ones. What is most urgent is once again the need to participate in these changes that for years now affect the world in which we live, helping to truly grow the spirit of Europe so that each one of us can feel to be, other than Italian, French, Romanian, Bulgarian, Greek, also and especially European. A change of consciences is needed, because the fact that we had to learn, more than other countries, to live with diversity is probably a privilege of Europe.
The unity in diversity is the expression that better gives the idea of new identity that has to be given to Europe, on behalf of the various peoples that constitute it and of its infinite inner wealth. Preserving the differences in full respect of their dignity, means maintaining open wide spaces of freedom, because Europe is one and many at the same time, in a new understanding of the same identity and of the sense of belonging; and then the spirit of Jesus can once again be the heart and the pivot of this new challenge. It is therefore desirable that, once the political unity of this team of states is reached, we soon regenerate a spiritual unity, a task that is much more difficult because it involves the human being in its more intimate essence. Perhaps starting from our European monks, almost in danger of extinction and especially too intimidated. They should instead have more courage and perhaps even descend in the street as the Buddhist monks of Burma did in 2007 to ask for freedom and to defend their own people exhausted by poverty and dictatorship. It would be shocking to see our Catholic monks united on the roads of history to bring Europe to be reborn instead of continuing to destroy itself.