The European Union (EU) is marginalising Christianity to the point where it is starting to resemble the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), a senior Russian bishop has said.
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said that Russian and European civilisations have “exchanged their roles,” with Russia rediscovering its Christian roots while the EU abandons its own.
“The Soviet Union was the country of the official state atheism, while all of us perceived the West as the Christian region,” the bishop said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Now, however, Christianity has been revived in Russia, with new churches and monasteries being built, while “religiosity is decreasing in the West, churches are closed, some church buildings are just sold.”
Atheism and secularism, the bishop added, are now the guiding ideology of Western Europe.
“Certainly, the Church is not persecuted there the way it was persecuted here in the Soviet times when churches were blown up and destroyed,” he said.
“But the ideology of modern secular Europe practically excludes the Church and religion from the public sphere, so you can be religious as a private person, but your religiosity should not influence your public role, your professional activities.”
The metropolitan predicted, however, that Europe will eventually reject secularism and return to Christianity:
“Being drunk with freedom, with permissiveness… people will understand what it leads to and start coming back to their Christian roots.”
There has been increasing concern among religious leaders that the EU is ignoring, and in some cases eradicating, Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage.
EU leaders failed to include any specific mention of Christianity in the draft European Constitution in 2005, despite repeated calls from some. The text instead referred more generally to the continent’s “Religious and Humanist inheritance” after pressure from secularists.
In 2004, the European Commission also rejected the appointment of Rocco Buttiglione as Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security due to his traditional Catholic views.
Greens, Liberals and Socialists continually questioned Mr Buttiglione’s stance on homosexuality, to which he responded that while he views gay sex as sinful, he would nonetheless fight discrimination against gay people.
The committee voted to reject his nomination by 27 votes to 26.
Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli condemned the rejection, saying: “This decision shows the real face of Europe, a face which we don’t like. It’s fundamentalist, which is absolutely not on.”
Mr Buttiglione himself commented: “The new soft totalitarianism that is advancing on the left wants to have a state religion. It is an atheist, nihilistic religion – but it is a religion that is obligatory for all.”