After Nicolas Sarkozy’s historic speech in the Basilica of St. John Lateran and today’s news about Tony Blair’s reception into full communion with the Catholic Church, we are taking bets on who will be the next European political figure to publicly demonstrate their interest in recovering the Christian roots of the “old” continent.
Of course, Blair’s reception doesn’t come as a surprise, but this very public act is another step in England’s gradual recovery of its original Catholic identity. As many have pointed out, inasmuch as it is Christian, England is already, in practice, a Catholic country once again – with more Catholics (including Irish, Poles and Portugese immigrants) in church on Sundays than Anglicans. And the Anglican communion, after years of defections (three episcopalian bishops in the US became Catholics in this year alone), is itself on the verge of being further divided by schism.
Some English Catholics have expressed doubts about the profundity of Blair’s Catholicism – especially given certain public statements on moral issues by the former prime minister and his Catholic wife, Cherie. That is an excellent reason to keep him in our prayers. After all, reception into the Church is the work of a moment; being a Christian is the work of a lifetime, and everyone needs help – from God and others – to live up to the fullness of the Christian vocation, which is a calling to genuine holiness.
When Cardinal Ratzinger chose the name “Benedict,” it was clear that he had not given up on Christian Europe. There are signs that he had good grounds for hope.
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