The task of a creative minority

The task of a creative minority

Here are excerpts from a speech by Jesús Morán Cepedano, co-president of the Focolare Movement, philosopher, specialized in theological anthropology, on the occasion of the Congress Together for Europe in Munich, June 30, 2016.

Why has Europe given rise in the last few centuries to a culture which has made God less of a mystery than an irresolvable problem? And, as a consequence, has made human beings into an inextricable problem in relation to themselves, to others, to creation and to the Absolute? This question is all the more “scandalous” if we think of the history of the European continent, which over many centuries developed a strong and original humanism in spiritual, artistic, philosophical, scientific, legal and political spheres.

In 2004, the then cardinal J. Ratzinger wondered if it was not true, as Arnold J. Toynbee states, that the destiny of societies largely depends on their creative minorities. Perhaps – he affirmed – this is the task that belongs to Christians: to conceive of themselves as the creative minority that leads Europe to rediscover its heritage.

We are reminded of the nature of this heritage in a masterly and surprising way also by intellectuals of the calibre of H G Gadamer and G Steiner, who while looking from very different contexts, perspectives and experiences, both see in Europe a task that is “as much spiritual as it is intellectual”.  For Gadamer: ”To live with the other, to live as the other person’s other, is a universal task which is valid in the small and larger scales.  Just as we grow and enter into life learn to live together with others, the same thing applies to larger groupings in humanity, to peoples and States’.  It is probably a European privilege the fact of having had to and been able to learn to live with diversity.” (L’eredità dell’Europa, Einaudi, Torino 1991, pp.21-22)

This destiny calls for the creativity, ingenuity and capacity to get up again and go beyond its own limits that have always been part of the European soul, as has been shown by its entire history and above all after the Second World War.  The founding Fathers of the European Project were able to grasp the moment and were bold enough not only to dream of another idea of Europe but to start making it happen by focusing on the integration of the entire heritage of the continent, being well aware, according to the prophetic words of Konrad Adenauer that: “The future of the West is not threatened as much by political tensions as by the danger of conformism, uniformity of thoughts and feelings; in a word, by the whole system of life, by flight from responsibility, with concern only for oneself.”[1]

It follows that the perspective that Europe can and must still, and more than ever, give to the world is that of forming a culture of unity in diversity at all levels, from the personal and daily levels to the institutional and forward-looking, as has been said recently by Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch: “Even human institutions – if we are able to “transfigure them” with this focus on diversity – will understand that diversity is a gift and not a contradiction; it is wealth and not imbalance; it is life and not death. We live in a context in which pluralism risks being sacrificed in the name of a false unity, which wants the global levelling down of all expressions of human life. … Instead, with the acceptance of diversity as the foundation of the unity of a wounded humanity, through dialogue of love, through mutual respect, through acceptance of the “other” and our willingness to welcome and be welcomed, we can become for the world, icons of Christ and, like him, be in unity also in diversity.[2]

It is a question, therefore, of returning with new drive and urgency to evolve a culture of human rights which can wisely connect the personal dimension and that of the common good of all intermediate groups which unite in a social and political community.  At the same time this should be done without losing sight of the transcendental dignity of every human being, as Pope Francis affirmed strongly in his 2014 talk to the European Parliament.

In following this path, the role of ecclesial communities is seen once again to be crucial and decisive because their task is precisely that of their mission, the joyful proclamation of the good news.  We are at a time in which Christianity is being ex-culturated and the “cultural pact” between the Churches and society has been broken. In other words, it seems that the Christian cultural basis which formed the West has disappeared, through the emphasis on the principle of an autonomous society and its “exit from religion”. It is a question now of returning to the Gospel, to bring about significant encounters in the light of Scripture, the Gospel stories, so as to generate, indeed, the same life as Jesus generated.  As Pope Francis emphasised just a few weeks ago, on the occasion of the conferral of the Charlemagne PrizeGod desires to dwell in our midst, but he can only do so through men and women who, like the great evangelizers of this continent, have been touched by him and live for the Gospel, seeking nothing else. Only a Church rich in witnesses will be able to bring back the pure water of the Gospel to the roots of Europe. In this enterprise, the path of Christians towards full unity is a great sign of the times and a response to the Lord’s prayer “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).[3]

[1] Address to the Assembly of German Artisans, Düsseldorf, 27 April 1952. Quoted by Pope Francis’ in his address on the occasion of the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize (6 May 2016).

[2] Lectio magistralis by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the Conferral of the Honorary Doctorate by the Sophia University Institute, Loppiano 26 October 2015.

[3] Pope Francis, Address on the occasion of the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, Rome, 6 May 2016.

Photo: ©Ursel Haaf –

The principles of dialogue

The principles of dialogue

Jesús Morán is the Co-President of the Focolare Movement: Degree in Philosophy, Doctorate in Theology. Here are his stimulating thoughts, condensed into 7 points, to learn the “language of fraternity”

1. Dialogue is always a personal meeting. It is not about words or thoughts, but about giving our being. It is not just conversation but something that intimately affects the participants. Rosenzweig used to say: “Something really happens in authentic dialogue”. In other words: you do not leave a true dialogue unscathed, something changes in us.

2. Dialogue requires silence and listening. Silence is fundamental for sincere thinking and speaking. A deep silence, patiently cultivated in solitude and put into practice in front of others, of their way of thinking and speaking. A Hindu proverb says: «When you speak, make sure that your words are better than your silence». Benedict XVI said that today more than ever we need, “an ecosystem that knows how to balance silence, words, images and sounds”. In the exercise of dialogue we need silence, so as not to destroy the words themselves.

3. In dialogue we put ourselves at risk, our vision of things, our identity, our culture. We must conquer an “open identity”, which is mature, and at the same time based on a fundamental anthropological axiom: “When we understand each other, I understand better who I am”. Paraphrasing an idea of ​​Klaus Hemmerle: if you teach me your thinking, I can learn my way of announcing again.

4. Authentic dialogue has to do with the truth. But beware: truth is a relational reality (not relative, which is different). It means that the truth is the same for everyone, but everyone shares his personal participation and understanding of the truth with others. So the difference is a gift, not a threat. “The gift of difference” is another pillar of the culture of dialogue.

5. Dialogue requires will. Love of the truth leads me to look for it, to want it, and for this reason I open myself up to dialogue. Sometimes it is thought that to dialogue is weak. In reality it is the opposite: only those who have great willpower take the risk of dialogue. Every dogmatic or fundamentalist attitude hides fear and fragility. We must be wary of those who habitually resort to screaming, to using high-powered words or disqualifying sentences to impose their convictions. Brute force, even on a dialectical level, can win, but never convince.

6. Dialogue is only possible between authentic people. Love, altruism and solidarity prepare people for dialogue by making them authentic. Gandhi and Tagore had a very different idea of ​​the educational system to be established in an independent India, but this did not hinder their friendship. Pope Wojtyla and President Pertini had, over a long period, a deep understanding of the destiny of humanity, yet they adhered to almost opposite categories.

7. The culture of dialogue knows only one law, that of reciprocity. Only in this does dialogue find meaning and legitimacy. If nations were to engage in dialogue before the silent killing of revenge or wealth or personal affirmation, we would enjoy the happiness of which we now deprive ourselves. If religions were to dialogue to honour God; if nations respected one another and understood that their wealth is in making the other rich; if everyone went through a “little personal path” of novelty, we could leave behind the night of terror in which we reel. What are the obstacles on such a path? Judgment, condemnation, intellectual pride.

The work to be done is painstaking because of the commitment it requires, avoiding distraction or compromise, but it is full of culture, much more than a profession. It is a tiring and ruthless activity. But Mercy will save us.