ROME, July 7, 2004 ( – Europe is not safe from religious persecution, warned Vatican Cardinal Paul Poupard-although, he said, modern-day attacks on believers may take more subtle forms.  Speaking to the Italian daily Avvenire, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture observed that in Europe today: “Christians are mocked for their faith; many young couples are ostracized socially if they want a lot of children; those who oppose same-sex ‘marriage’ are considered intolerant.”

All these “forms of persecution, hidden or overt, will bear their fruits,” Cardinal Poupard said. The French prelate explained that an aggressive secularizing trend in Europe would eventually lead to more direct attacks on religion. Pointing to the thousands of Christians who died for the faith in Europe during the 20th century, he predicted: “This century will have some, too, in some countries.”  As evidence of the growing hostility toward Christianity in Europe, the French prelate cited “the categorical rejection of a reference to the Christian roots of Europe in the preamble to the constitution for the European Union.” That rejection, he argued, was a refusal to acknowledge historical reality. It is, he continued, “more than simple anti-clericalism,” because it seeks to eradicate the evidence of Christian faith.

Despite his grim prognosis for the European future, Cardinal Poupard told Avvenire that he also sees reasons for optimism about the revival of Christian faith. He mentioned a growing phenomenon in France of adults who have returned to the faith after years of indifference. He also took note of the enthusiastic response to World Youth Day celebrations, and the growth of new religious communities, especially in Africa and the Americas.