Recent events suggest the Church my be experiencing somewhat of a revival in Europe—which is one of the fervent wishes of the Holy Father—and if that becomes something solidly transformative, that would be wonderful.
George Weigel reports.
“In mid-May, Pope Benedict XVI made an apostolic pilgrimage to Portugal; half a million people attended the outdoor papal Mass at Fatima.
“When the Pope returned to Rome, two hundred thousand pilgrims jammed St. Peter's Square for Benedict's recitation of the Sunday "Regina Coeli," demonstrating their support for a pontiff beset for months by criticism over abusive clergy and irresponsible bishops.
“A week later, a 44-day exposition of the Shroud of Turin in the cathedral of that northern Italian city concluded. Over the course of six weeks, some two million people braved long lines to spend a few brief moments before what many believe to be the burial clothes of Christ.
“To vary Mark Twain: Have reports of Christianity's death in Europe been greatly exaggerated?
“It's a fair question, and as one who has been ringing the alarm bells about a European crisis of civilizational morale since the publication of The Cube and the Cathedral in 2005, I'm obliged to try to answer it.
“The answer is: It's too early to tell.
“The vast flock of pilgrims at Fatima, the enthusiasm for the Pope manifest on a sunny Roman spring day, the extraordinary numbers who came to see the Shroud -- these are all encouraging signs. So is the intense piety that continues to be evident in Poland, most recently in the wake of the tragic deaths of so many national leaders in an April plane crash, while they were en route to the killing grounds of the Katyn forest. So, in an odd way, are the virulent attacks on the Church and the Pope these past several months. No one expends energy berating an institution deemed moribund and an 83-year old man considered an irrelevance; the attacks themselves are evidence that Christian faith -- and the Catholic Church -- remain factors in European culture and European public life.
“Moreover, if World Youth Day 2011, to be held in Madrid next August 16-21, turns out a million or more young pilgrims, which seems possible, a challenge will have been laid down to the hyper-secularist Zapatero government in Spain and to Europe's aging children of the Sixties, who may tolerate Christianity as a personal lifestyle choice (if considering it an exceedingly odd one) but who also insist that 21st century European public life must be stripped of religiously-informed moral argument.”