The European Union has lost its soul and will only be able to find it again in Orthodox Christianity.
His Eminence Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, 10 May 1998
According to the Oxford Professor, Norman Davies, in his huge book Europe: A History (Oxford 1996), the word Europe may well have its origin in an Assyrian word, ‘Ereb’, meaning ‘the West’. The West is after all exactly what Europe is, as seen from the cradle of civilization in the Middle East.
The Professor in question, pro-Catholic, pro-EU and anti-Orthodox, tends to glide subjectively over many points of European history. This includes the fact that Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, in De Gaulle’s phrase, has never existed as a single political unit.
True, many have attempted to achieve political unity. First of all, there was the Roman Empire. However, even that Empire, based on slavery and tyranny, omitted most of northern Europe, Scandinavia, Germany and what are now the northern Slav lands, especially Russia. On the other hand, the Roman Empire did cover northern Africa and large areas of the Middle East and Asia Minor. In any case, the Roman Empire in Western Europe collapsed under the impact of barbarian invasions.
The barbarians, however, were baptised. In the late eighth century, one of them tried to revive the pagan Roman Empire. This was the bloodthirsty Frank, Charlemagne, who tried to unite Europe by force once more. In fact he did little more than unite much of what is now Germany, France, Benelux and northern Italy. This became the foundation of medieval Roman Catholic Europe. This was a Europe which cut itself off from the sources of the Faith of Christ in the still Orthodox East and made enemies all around itself through its aggressive imperialism. As the scholar, Robert I. Moore, has described in his book, ‘The Formation of a Persecuting Society 950-1250’ (1987), it also made enemies within itself. Finally, it ended up by making such bitter internal enemies through its bloody inquisitions and persecutions, that it split apart in the ‘religious wars’ of the sixteenth century. The results of those wars are still with us today.
Exactly a thousand years after Charlemagne, another tyrant, even more bloody, Napoleon, tried the same and conquered even larger areas of Europe. Like Charlemagne, he also had himself crowned by a Pope. Again, like Charlemagne, he also attempted to impose, on all the nations he had invaded and occupied, a uniform code of measurements and laws. However, like that other brutal tyrant who came after him, Hitler, Napoleon succeeded in ‘uniting’ large parts of Europe by force for only a brief time. Both of these monsters stumbled and came unstuck when they tried to invade the western and eastern edges of Europe, that is England and Russia. In England, Napoleon was considered to be ‘the devil incarnate’, in Russia, he was considered to be ‘the Antichrist’.
Today, in the ‘European Union’ (EU) a more successful and peaceful economic attempt to unite Western Europe is taking place. But with recent developments, including a common currency (in imitation of Charlemagne’s crowns), the ‘EU’ also has an increasingly significant, for many a far too significant, political dimension. Many fear its fanatical desire for uniformity and also monetary and, therefore, political union. For them, today’s EU is leading dangerously, and inexorably, to the same type of tyrannical European pseudo-unity which preceded it under the tyrants of the past. As the French medieval historian, Jacques Le Goff, has written, the EU is at risk of becoming not Europe, but an ‘anti-Europe’.
The EU emblem is its flag, consisting of twelve yellow stars grouped in a circle against a dark blue background. According to official sources, the twelve stars represent completion or fullness, the circle suggests unity. Many have suggested that the real origins of this design go back to the Roman Catholic iconography of the Virgin Mary, which itself goes back to Revelation 12,1: And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. Exactly twelve stars are in fact widely used to surround the head of Roman Catholic statues of the Virgin. The fact that the stars are yellow (the colour adopted by the Vatican) is also suggestive. And the fact that the flag was accepted by the ideological founders of the EU on 8 December 1955 (the Roman Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin) is even more suggestive. The devout Roman Catholic designer of the flag, the octogenarian Arsène Heitz, does not deny any of this.
In 1955 the original six members of the movement for a united Europe were Germany, France, Benelux and Italy. They in fact formed a Neo-Carolingian Europe, in the words of the former French President and EU Constitution author, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Over 80% of their combined population was Roman Catholic. Moreover, at that time, many of the ideological leaders and large proportions of the populations of the Six were devout Roman Catholics. No wonder the whole union was blessed and encouraged by the Pope and created by the Treaty of Rome.
Today with twenty-five members, the nominal populations of the EU are still majority Roman Catholic, but there are now larger and larger Protestant and also Orthodox minorities. Moreover, the vast majorities in all those countries are today only nominally Christian. In fact they are non-practising, in other words, lapsed Christians. If the current EU is to expand to take in the majority of European territory, which is not only at present quite outside the EU, but also nearly all Orthodox, further changes would occur. For example, the Orthodox alone have kept the original Christian Creed and the original Christian understanding of God the Holy Trinity. Then even the nominal Roman Catholic population (let alone the small, practising one) would become a minority in the EU - which in fact it is and always has been in the real Europe. It is therefore becoming clear that after nearly fifty years, the EU, and therefore the EU flag, may yet change quite radically.
As regards a new EU flag there are various propositions. A few have put forward the design for a new EU flag of the conservative, Roman Catholic Paneuropa Union flag. The Paneuropa organization, founded in 1923, is run by the Austrian politician Otto von Habsburg, the scion of the tyrannical Habsburg Emperors. Its flag has as its central design a red cross within a yellow circle (yellow being the Papal colour), which is surrounded by twelve yellow stars. To non-Roman Catholics this is clearly even more unacceptable than the already controversial present EU flag.In another suggestion, made in May 2002, a Dutch designer, Rem Koolhaas, published a modernist proposal. This was a ‘barcode flag’ of some forty-five vertical stripes, combining the colours of all the different EU member nations’ flags. After this proposal, widely mocked for its resemblance to a gaudy deckchair cover, the left-wing British Guardian newspaper launched its own competition to design a new flag for the EU. It received several highly critical entries for such a new flag -- one of which was a picture of huge amounts of red tape spoiling a paradisiac, sky-blue background.
So far, however, nobody seems to have considered the question of a European flag from an Orthodox viewpoint. From this standpoint, there can be no Orthodox design for a flag for the EU, for the EU is not Christian, and therefore not a Free Confederation, let alone Orthodox. As a matter of fact, the EU organization has actually refused even to mention the Christian Faith in its proposed Constitution. What follows is therefore a suggestion for a flag not for the anti-Orthodox, and indeed anti-Christian, EU, but for a flag for a possible, future Christian Confederation of Free Sovereign Nations in Europe, living in peace with one another.
The theology of such a concept of Europe is not a fantasy. It is to be found in the words at the beginning and at the end of the Great Litany of the Orthodox Church: ‘In peace let us pray to the Lord’. And: ‘Calling to remembrance the Most Holy, Most Pure, Most Blessed and Glorious Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary with all the saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another and all our lives unto Christ our God’. Below are some other fundamental considerations which must be considered in a design of a flag for such a group of nations.
Firstly, any Confederation or Commonwealth, like that of the ‘Byzantine Commonwealth’ (the late Sir Dimitri Obolensky’s phrase) must express the unity in diversity of the Holy Trinity. Secondly, any Christian organization must have at its centre the cross – unlike the EU flag, which, very symbolically and very dangerously, has at its centre nothing at all.
We would therefore suggest a flag with, at its centre, the cross, and around it four other crosses. This indicates the centrality of Christ and His Victory in diverse lands of Europe, north and south, east and west, all of which bow down before the One Cross of the Christ of Jerusalem. Thus both the divine, in the Cross of Christ, and the human, in the smaller crosses of the saints of the different areas of Europe, are represented. We would be hesitant to include stars, since they have an apocalyptic significance. Historically, they have also been associated with Judaism and, in recent times, with Babylon, the atheistic Communism of the Soviet Union etc.
Thirdly, as regards colours, we would suggest that the cross should be white, indicating the purity of the White Christ, the White King, as the Saviour has been known in the history of different parts of Europe. It would stand on a pale blue (not dark blue) background, this being the traditional liturgical colour of the Mother of God. In this way we would honour the presence and vital providential role of the Mother of God throughout nearly two thousand years of the history of Christian Europe, from England (once known as ‘The Dowry of the Mother of God’), to Russia (once known as ‘The House of the Mother of God’). Thus:
Clearly, this is only a draft for a future European emblem. However, we hope that this suggestion will stimulate others to think about such an emblem. Much more importantly, it might stimulate others to think about the actual content of a future European Christian Confederation, which might at least in part return to its Orthodox Christian roots of the First Millennium.
The Feast of the Dormition, 2004