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Christodoulos of Athens and all Greece, With or without Christianity?
From, Futurum - address to the University of Iasi, June 2003. Complete text at the site of the Church of Greece
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(...) Around 950 AD, the Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus speaks of Europe with the pride that one has when one speaks of one’s own homeland: "It is reasonable that Byzantium should be at the head of the land called Europe, given that it is a city both reigning over and surpassing the entire world". And he adds confidently: "indeed, I regard it as the head of Europe because Byzantium itself is the most beautiful and most honourable part of Thrace".
There was therefore the growing realisation, during the Middle Ages, that Europe constituted not only an area but our home. Yet, in times of threat or of conflict difference presents itself to us and our identity becomes evident. It is not at that moment that our identity comes into existence for the first time, as has been claimed, but rather that it presents itself in relief. This is how we can explain why Europe fully realised its particular essence only with the appearance of the threat of Islam.
Nowadays, it is claimed by certain thinkers and politicians, who strive to shake off the heritage of Christianity, that, in any case, identification of Christendom with the European spirit occurred, if at all, only in the Middle Ages, and that Europe, being a creation of the Renaissance, has nothing to do with Christendom. And yet, with the same confidence as that of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, whom we quoted earlier on, Pope Pius the Second remarks in 1458 that Islam "turns against Europe itself, which means against our homeland, against our own hearth".
Let us be reminded at this point that the year 1458 was High Renaissance, and Pius the Second, before becoming a Pope, was one of the representative literati of that movement, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini. In 1623, another characteristic representative of the Renaissance, Francis Bacon, used the expression "We Europeans" in his writings, and of course he must have felt that what he wrote was something which the people around him shared with him. Yet maybe no one else expressed this identity so well as the great cartographer Abraham Hortelius, who, in his "Geographic Encyclopedia", noted in 1578, under the headword "Christian": "For Christian, see European". One cannot help wondering: if Hortelius’ 16th century is not the Renaissance, where are today’s antichristian members of the European Parliament striving to discover the Renaissance?
Cf. Nat Gerrs' Why Europe, where Archbishop Christodoulos' views are discussed. Cf. David Turner, Byzantium : The 'alternative' history of Europe * Pope Benedict XVI, The Papal Science * Bartholomew’s lessons of faith and intelligence * Al. Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire