The current patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the elderly Ilya II — whom the media have called “the most trusted man in Georgia” — has a particularly hands-on way of preserving Georgian Christian culture. He has encouraged the rebirth of the Christian heritage of Georgia, which vies with Armenia for the title of the first truly Christian nation.
Patriarch Ilya wants to encourage Georgians to have babies — many babies, so that the country does not need to bring in immigrants from alien cultures, and so that the Christian family once again becomes the central building block of Georgian society. Patriarch Ilya announced, in 2007, that he would personally baptize the children of practicing Orthodox parents who already had three children.
Not only would he baptize them, but he would also become the godfather to the babies. It is estimated that, since his announcement, the patriarch has been responsible for something of a baby boom in the former communist bloc country, baptizing 30,000 children — and becoming their spiritual “parent.” One wonders how he remembers their birthdays and all their Christmas gifts.
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To the jaded secularists who run the institutions of the European Union, or indeed most of the politicians who lead the formerly Christian nations of Western Europe, the actions of the Georgian Orthodox Church might cause some amusement — but more likely contempt and hostility.
The very idea that the traditional family — with multiple children, practicing the Christian faith — is necessary or even desirable for the preservation of the culture of a nation is so antithetical to the forces now governing a dying Europe (a “sterile” Europe, as Pope Francis called it) as to arouse measures to combat both the philosophy and the practice.
One example of this is the determination of the European Union, backed by the considerable forces of George Soros, to force mass immigration on the countries of central and eastern Europe, formerly under the iron rule of the former Soviet Union.
Having experienced the brutal and dictatorial hand of atheistic communism, these countries (no surprise!) do not react warmly to the bullying hand of European secularist ideology, which dismisses the concept of the nation state and especially the idea of the Christian nation state.
The aggressively secular mindset controlling most of the institutions and media in Western Europe is imposing its own secular equivalent of Sharia law with regard to the possibility of vibrant Christianity in the public square.
In Britain, for example, there was the hounding of the former leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, Tim Farron, for his Christian faith, and the horror expressed when a practicing Catholic member of Parliament, Jacob Rees-Mogg, affirmed his belief in Catholic teaching on abortion and homosexual marriage. These are clear signs that, in post-Christian Western Europe, those naïve and bigoted enough to still believe in their antiquated and intolerant Christianity had better keep very quiet — or there will be consequences.
We can list the prosecutions for Christian bakers, foster children removed from practicing Christian parents, Christian florists, and more. The secular intolerance is only intensifying and is already well-advanced in the rapidly secularizing United States.
Last October, I was privileged to be a speaker at a magnificent event in Budapest, Hungary. The world summit on the persecution of Christians was organized by the Hungarian government, which is still the only government in the world to have a dedicated government ministry for persecuted Christians.
We were addressed by the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, who is the bête noire of the EU technocrats. Orbán used a phrase that has stuck with me since that day; he said that whatever else happens in the rest of Europe, Hungary would still be a “little slice of Christianity.”
That image, and the subsequent words and actions of the countries of East and Central Europe, provide a little light of hope for the future, as Western Europe slips into cultural and demographic suicide.
The very fact that Viktor Orbán and the newly elected Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and his government — and other countries in the Visegrád Four — are hated and condemned by so many in the sterile West is a very clear sign they are doing something hopeful for the preservation of the Christian heart of Europe.
Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki, on taking office last year, said his dream was “to re-Christianize Europe” — that must’ve caused splutters in the expensive restaurants of Brussels, where the unelected bureaucrats spend their millions. Viktor Orbán, the prizefighter of European Christian heritage, said in his State of the Nation address in February that “we are a people who think that the last hope for Europe is Christianity.”
He is right — and timid and frightened Christians in the West, despite the array of powers against them, must be vigorous in affirming that truth. When the historian Hilaire Belloc said that “Europe will return to the faith, or she will perish,” he was not speaking about a return to “Christendom,” but rather a recognition, as he said somewhere else, that the “cement” that held Europe together was Christianity.
Timid and frightened Christians in the West, despite the array of powers against them, must be vigorous in affirming the power of their faith.
If there is no cement, the building will collapse. Prime Minister Orbán spoke of the dangers to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe — which are attempting to preserve and reinvigorate their Christian culture — not coming “to” the West, but “from” the West. EU policies have “opened the way for the decline of Christian culture and the expansion of Islam.”
There is something profound about the fact that it is the very countries that lived through the worst darkness the 20th century that are rekindling the light of Christian hope for Europe — truly a “light from the East.”
As Belloc said, the faith “is the only beacon in this night, if beacon there be.”
Fr. Benedict Kiely is a Catholic priest and founder of Nasarean.org, which is helping the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.