Europeans becoming increasingly pluralistic in their beliefs and practices, mixing tradition with innovation, reports the Washington Post (Dec. 24).
An in-depth article on new patterns of religious belief and identification in Europe finds that the “Spaniards are creating a national patchwork of local, Christian-inspired but overtly secular religions. The French are sampling Buddhism and massing on pilgrimages to shrines of obscure saints. The Italians are returning to long-buried Catholic forms and ideals in communities of renewal.
The Swedes are reclaiming their church from the clutches of the state . . . ” Charles Trueheart writes that Europeans are moving in four opposing directions in their new religious seeking. “One is toward contemporary expressions of faith in a secular vernacular,” such as in American-based churches that emphasize informality. Another such expression is the church-rooted environmentalist movement.
The second direction is toward a return to traditional ritual and mysticism. This can be seen in revamped Latin Masses and in “renewal communities” that feature charismatic worship, according to Trueheart. The third tendency is to move to non-Christian religions, such as Buddhism. Trueheart adds that still another avenue of seeking is found in the great appeal of spiritual pilgrimages — from going to a papal Youth Day in Paris to a shrine.
Unlike regular church life, these events are individually-oriented, mobile, and allow for “picking and choosing” beliefs. A similar phenomenon has developed in Spain where more than 400 priestless “associations” have been established on quasi-religious traditional festivals centered around papier-mache monuments — or”fallas” — that are torched in “massive bonfires of release and redemption.”