Pera is a philosopher and politician. He writes masterfully on Relaivism, Christianity and the West. He sees Europe as a culture demoralised by relativism. His critique is devastating. He sees little hope against a resurgent Islam. The Pope writes very well on The Spiritual Roots of Europe. Being who he is he is more restrained and certainly unlike, Pera, very quiet on Islam. Ratzinger shows a real understanding of Evangelicals and their message, much more so than the media critics of Bush. He would not agree with Pera on Iraq and later in the book disputes Pera's interesting idea of an established non-denominational Christianity as the civil religion of Europe. but then how could the Pope put his imprimatur on any church other than the Roman variety? After all is is the only true church is it not? Ratzinger gives a brilliant critique of secular muticulturalism and recalls Europe to Christian roots. He is a pope this Presbyterian can applaud.In the second half of the book the two men exchange one letter each. I wish it had been more and that an index had been added. An excellent book which should be read by all who care about the future of Europe.
Without Roots came to be because of the chance encounter of Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera as they both gave lectures at the Pontifical Lateran University. Once each read the others lectures they realized that they were arriving at the same conclusion for the restitution of Europe's future but coming from very different backgrounds. The conclusion is, "the only thing worse than living without roots is struggling to get by without a future." (Pera: xii)
The theme of the book is judging Europe's past as a cohesive identifier of the culture that was once so great. European culture was born out of Christianity, namely Catholicism, and the current idea of culture is to wipe away any vestiges of a Christian past. To do this, argues Pera and Ratzinger, would be for Europe to lose its identity entirely. Both men speak to issues such as politics, philosophy, and the American model of the separation between Church and State. Pera talks at length about Islam and its unrelenting nature in the face of relativism and political pressure. The audience is those interested in European politics, culture, and Christianity.
The strength of the book has to be the resounding authority and diversity of background with which both men approach the subject at hand. Joseph Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI, perhaps the most authoritative voice on Catholicism in Europe. Marcello Pera is a secularist and the President of the Italian Senate. The challenges might be that Joseph Ratzinger does not give a rebuttal to all the thoughts posed by Pera, claiming his scope lies only in Theology and not politics-for this I respect him and also would love to know what he thinks on subjects like American politics and Islam.
I highly recommend this book. It is enlightening and rare because of the secularist and Catholic arriving at the same conclusion concerning Europe's roots. Also, as an American, if gives me a lot to ponder on our own system of government and the affects Europe has had on the USA.
The most remarkable thing about this little book is not so much the particular issues that are discussed in it. The last few years have seen an increased concern expressed by many Europeans (and others) about the direction in which that continent is headed. What is remarkable is that there is increasingly a convergence of ideas that point to the solution of Europe's long term ills. In this book two extraordinary intellectual giants (one a Pope and another a philosopher and the president of the Italian senate) present their views of those ills from an essentially the same vantage point. There is yet a hope that not everything is lost.
As years go by, I feel this book gains in importance and relevance. It's accessible too - easy to dip into. It's structure of alternating essays doesn't break up the "flow" of the book, but adds to it, and helps to digest the book's ideas.