On Monday, back from Madrid where His Holiness celebrated World Youth Day surrounded by a multitude of young people, Pope Benedict XVI told a meeting of his former students in Castel Gandolfo that "Cradle Catholics have not done enough to show people that God exists and can bring true fulfilment to everyone". He added, "It also is up to Christians to make God known to the world and older generations may not have done their best."
Graphic explanations can be viewed here giving reasons for the decline of the Irish Catholic Church and here where in France, secularism has added to the church's problems. The decline of the Church of England is shown graphically here. Today, individualism as opposed to collective responsibility has resulted in anarchy. In the secular world Michael Gove has outlined his vision of what needs to be done in an attempt to deal with the problem. But what of religion? In a recent article in the Mail Online, A N Wilson wrote of the Legacy of a society that believes in nothing. Schools have played a significant part in the decline of Christianity and this must be redressed. Regard for self over others has resulted in no benefit to society, quite the contrary.
In an age where authority clearly means nothing to many young people, the old authoritarianism of the church must appear anachronistic but viewed, not just from a religious standpoint, the Ten Commandments provided the basis of an ordered life in this country and beyond. How one sees God may vary and this may be part of the problem. If God is love, the religious authoritarianism which told people what to believe or fear the consequences may have convinced the ignorant but does not wash with Christians today.
The answer of the Church of England, and of the Church in Wales, is to abandon mysticism and depart from the tradition of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to define themselves as politically correct social workers in vestments. However, they continue the Anglican tradition expressed in music and in art. Enter many Anglican churches today, including Westminster Abbey, and you will find icons on the walls. Although used by many as religious pictures rather than Holy Icons to be venerated as doors to heaven, nevertheless they represent an important link with Orthodox Christianity. Links which must be strengthened if Christianity in this country is to avoid the descent into secularism witnessed in France.
For his part Pope Benedict has explained how to find God in art. “Art is like an open doorway to the infinite, toward a beauty and truth that go beyond everyday reality”, he said. Raphael's The Disputation over the Blessed Sacrament (The Triumph of Religion) is an excellent example of this. The beauty of the Earth surrounds us and as Christians we should unite to spread that message if we are to avoid subjugation. What binds us is far greater than anything that divides us. For some Anglicans in the Church of England, and perhaps in Wales, the Ordinariate is an answer to Christ's prayer for unity. If we can achieve it in the West, unity with the Orthodox church may follow.Then older generations really will have done their best to 'make God known to the world'.