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The Two Communities of Europe

Europe finds itself at a paradoxical turning point. While legal harmonization and constitution- making attest to deepening integration, Europe's institutions have failed to generate what every political community needs in order to survive and thrive: a feeling of belonging.

As long as this is true, integration cannot succeed. Quite simply, if the European Union is to overcome national parochialism and embrace a shared and binding purpose, it must abandon the rhetoric of accountants and speak in a language that comprehends what is good and bad, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong.

This won't happen automatically or overnight. Communal values and bonds evolve from a long accumulation of experience, with mythological and historical understandings that give this experience the appearance of having evolved organically. There is nothing comparable in EU integration, which seems far more like a deliberate choice by an imperial few. So it is difficult to see how this path could lead to the collective and individual identity that European unification requires.

Instead, Europe should draw on two periods of community building. Medieval Christianity in its 13th-century formed a community united around a common faith, with Rome as its unifying power center. Saint Peter's successors as Roman pontiffs oversaw a network of Church-run universities which educated cultural elites in the same way and in the same language (Latin). A network of churches--built in the same style throughout Europe--shared a common calendar and liturgy. Medieval Christianity was by nature European, although it avoided the word itself and accepted all national forms of cultural expression.