A new book in Italian which surveyed young people of Rome shows that the faith is dwindling even there. The study was commissioned by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar-general of Rome, during the Jubilee Year to study the phenomenon of the young people who flocked to surround Pope John Paul. He wanted to know if they are really motivated by a deep Christian faith. What he found was that even those who are members of Church groups, their belief in God, the divinity of Jesus, and the existence of heaven, hell, and purgatory, as well as the need to live by the Church’s moral teachings was severely limited and lacking. While young women were the most likely to go to Mass and to hold to the Church teachings, that small point of light was only hopeful in comparison.
The fact remains that even among the young women with a strong religious sentiment, Christian tradition shows itself to be largely worn out. “Evidently, both catechism and the religion hour have failed,” comments Pollo. “But the true weak point is the family. Parents no longer transmit the faith to their children. At best, they act as tour operators, sending their children to the parish. But at home? Absolutely nothing.”
And this is in the city of the center of our faith, Rome. Italy as a whole is in danger of collapsing. The birth rate there is the lowest in Europe, and perhaps the world. So, they allow immigrants to come in to do the jobs for which there are no Italians to do it. There could come a day in the not-too-distant future in which Italy is no longer Italian and Catholic, and the few who practice the faith are mostly within the walls of the Vatican.
In other words, it could become like Turkey and Istanbul, once the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople, the centers of the Eastern Catholic, and then Orthodox, Church. And now the Church is only a shadow of itself there. In the great basilica of Haggia Sophia, one of the wonders of the world, the liturgy is no longer celebrated. Could that happen to St. Peter’s?
Cardinal Ruini is calling for a new evangelization of Rome’s young people. I hope that he is heeded. If such a thing can be done anywhere, it’s in Rome, where the stones themselves witness to 2,000 years of faith. And perhaps that new evangelization will spread throughout the Church like ripples in a pond. I pray for the Mother Church.