The National Catholic Register has a new editorial: Will He Rise Again in Europe, Too?
"Something unexpected is happening in Europe. Signs of a re-awakening of the Christian faith are slowly cropping up. We have been reporting on the phenomenon, in bits and pieces, all year.
We covered the increase in female religious vocations in Italy. We summarized an article in the German magazine Der Spiegel headlined “Religion, Born Again.” The article made its case from a worldwide perspective, but added that “there are signs that faith in God” is growing “even” in the West.
In an astonishing article in the Weekly Standard, Joshua Livestro wrote about the revival of Christianity in thoroughly secularized Holland. He quoted a book by “professional trend-watcher” Adjiedj Bakas and Minne Buwalda, who predict: “Throughout Western Europe, and also in Holland, liberal Protestantism is in its death throes. It will be replaced by a new orthodoxy.”
Christian books are selling well in Holland, and a prayer-in-the-workplace movement has been surprisingly popular. Crucifixes have been re-introduced to Catholic schools, and school Masses which were formerly empty are now packed."
The Register's analysis of the reasons why?
1) The creation of the European union has created a blurring of national identities and a openness to new concepts of what to believe
2) A reaction to extremist Islam
3) The impact of Pope John Paul II and his successor, Benedict.
John Paul left behind him the seeds of a religious revival: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Jubilee Year, the wildfire growth of the movements he encouraged within the Church, the World Youth Days, the Year of the Rosary (and the growth in personal prayer), the Year of the Eucharist (and the growth in adoration), and, after his death, the Synod on the Eucharist, a roots-up revamping of the Mass.
He also had a direct affect on Europe by the way he revitalized the faith of the Polish people.
“In the midst of a continent that suffers from priest shortages,” said one British newspaper, “Poland is the only country in Europe that is overflowing with priests” — priests who, increasingly, are being sent to churches in other countries. News reports show how British churches that were empty a short time ago are now filling up with Polish immigrants.
Even in Germany, which didn’t have Poland’s Catholic background, the fact that the new Pope is dynamic, courageous and German is having an effect.
The success of Pope Benedict’s World Youth Day in Cologne, and September trip to Germany, caught his home country by surprise. A German newspaper called him “The Pope of Hope.”
I would add one more factor, which is widely reported in evangelical circles: The rise of evangelicalism (who are mostly Pentecostals) in Europe.
It's been noticed from France, where evangelicals have grown 800% over the past 50 years - fueled partly by immigration from Afica - and where the Alpha course which is running in two thirds of the Catholic dioceses to the Ukraine where 17% of the population, 8 million people, are now members of "Independent" churches. (Ten months ago, I had breakfast in London with a missionary freshly returned from the Ukraine. He was simply bubbling with stories of the wonderful things happening there and regarded American Christianity, by comparison, to be moribund.)
Liberal, state sponsored Protestantism is dying. What sort of Christianity will become the standard bearer of the faith in 21st century Europe is the question.
Catholicism and evangelicalism would seem to be the answer. How those two forms of the faith will relate to and influence one another will be fascinating to watch.