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The meaning of encounter

“Encounter” is the key word that Benedict XVI chose on the flight to Prague to represent his Journey to the Czech Republic – the 13th International Journey of his Pontificate – to the journalists who accompanied him on this Visit to the heart of the European continent. Because of its geographical location – but even more for its history –  the land of Bohemia and Moravia is in fact a cross-roads of culture and people, of conflicts, of course, but of encounters above all.

They began with the convergence of the two traditions with which the Church breathes, eastern  and  western,  established in this region by Cyril and Methodius on the one hand, and by Latin-rite missionaries on the other.

This long history of encounters and conflicts  – common to other countries in central and eastern Europe – also marked the second half of the 20th century, until the resistance to the asphyxiating Communist regime that the country's Catholics and non-believers alike had lived through. It was a change that brought sufferings and developments that contributed to shaping a new concept of freedom, based on the truth just as the dictatorship was based on falsehood.

Thus said the Pope paying a direct tribute to Václav Havel, the writer, and later President, who opposed the regime during the years of oppression, then protagonist of the peaceful “Velvet Revolution”, whose 20th anniversary is being commemorated.

The rediscovered freedom is now somewhat empty, hence at risk in a heavily secularized country where Catholics are only a minority. Yet, creative minorities – Benedict XVI continued – build the future, living values that are not only of the past. They must therefore be made present in the public debate between agnostics and believers, through the contribution that the Church can offer at the cultural level, accompanied by her presence in the educational context and in charitable works.

As was testified in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the Catholic presence in the current context has sparked a discussion which, according to the Pope, is encouraging. Indeed, things must not be left as they are nor can one consider economic and social structures that ignore ethical principles.

This is the great challenge to which Benedict XVI is looking, trusting in reason as a common principle and in responsibility that is stronger by far than all selfishness. In Europe and throughout the world.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 22, 2019

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