with a new crisis. Speaking at a conference in Budapest on Christians in a changed Europe, Bishops and Priests painted a grim picture of churches suffering amidst "attacks against God", including "materialistic atheism", and occult phenomena’s.
Laszlo Lukacs, a Hungarian Roman Catholic Priest with close ties to the Vatican, said that Hungary has seen an influx of sects and astrology since 1989, when the democratic changes began. "Astrology is so popular in Hungary that even different ‘mediums’ are appearing on the screen of the television," Lukacs told BosNewsLife. "Quit a lot of people are so believing in stupidity, that it is astonishing for me. Its an attack against God itself," he added.
In addition, the Priest said, several non Christian groups were registered as Churches, "including the Church of the Hungarian Witches and the Church of the New Fresh Wind." [/limit]
CHRISTIANS UNDER ATTACK
Priest Lukacs stressed that these developments come at a time when Christians are already attacked by the media and politicians. "Under Communism the church was for forty years living in a kind of prison, safe from the outside attacks. Now we are faced with a pluralist society where the church can be criticized from different points. So we are exposed to the world whether we want it or not." He said that these times must challenge Christians "how we can ‘sell’ our Good News for all the people so that it may be understood and accepted by them."
Lukacs: "Many times politicians describe Hungary as a "Christian nation", but Christians are in a minority. We have to re-discover the figure of Jesus and the Bible itself." "I do think that a lot of non believers would turn to the Bible and to Jesus, if they could see His real image. Often I see that our language, our phrases, our rituals do not open up the hearts of the people to Christ. It is a false picture of Christ that is shown to them."
FEWER CHURCH MEMBERS
It apparently explains why especially Hungary’s traditional churches have fewer members. Between 1992 and 1998 the Roman Catholic membership dropped from 67.8 percent of the population to 57.8, according to official data. In the same period Protestant churches suffered too. The Reformed Church saw its membership declining from 20.9 percent of Hungarians to 17.7, while Lutheran Church membership fell from 4.2 to 3.9 percent.
Governments beyond the former Iron Curtain, however, not always encourage these denominations to attract more people. Laszlo Tokes, the Hungarian Reformed Bishop from neighboring Romania, told BosNewsLife that minority churches are suffering. "Romania’s (main) Orthodox church received state support and build up more than one thousand churches in Transylvania," home to about two million ethnic Hungarians. Nearly half of them are believed to belong to the Hungarian Reformed Church.
Bishop Tokes, who played a key role during the 1989 revolution that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, said the recently re-elected former Communists will make it difficult to overcome the past. "Our church properties confiscated in 1948, about 1300 buildings from the four Hungarian historical denominations, were not given back in eleven years. Now the postponing of their return is going on, although the European Union and the Council of Europe mention the restitution of church properties in documents."
THE LOST VALUES
Tokes said the set-back comes at a moment when people need Churches to counterbalance "the lost values" in former Communist countries. Priest Lukacs noted that many East Europeans seem disillusioned with their new found freedom. "Under Communism everyone dreamed about freedom, because they thought it was identical with happiness," he said. Lukacs stressed that many people "saw the example of the Western European countries and the United States" with their free market system. "It was thought that if they would become free than they would become rich and happy.
However freedom did not bring them only happiness; It brought a lot of harm to people, including violence and alcoholism." The German Roman Catholic Bishop, Joachim Wanke, said it was time for a "spiritual unity" between East and West, which he said also suffer under a growing abortion rate and euthanasia. Wanke, who recently received an award for his sermons, urged conference delegates to remain committed to their faith at a time when Europe urgently needed everlasting Life.