Catholic World News News Feature
Vatican Insists: Religion Belongs in European Constitution March 28, 2003
The Holy See has redoubled its efforts to ensure that a new constitution for the European Union will give explicit recognition to religious faith.
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the chief foreign-policy official for the Vatican, set out the arguments of the Holy See during a recent meeting at the famous Benedictine monastery of Montecassino. His address there was reproduced in L'Osservatore Romano on March 28.
In order to produce a "strong and united" Europe, the archbishop argued, the constitutional treaty should recognize that "the obligation to memory is indispensable." He explained: "The religious factor, especially in its Christian form, is a constitutive element in the history of the building of Europe." The faith, he continued, provided the impetus for schools, universities, the system of law, the calendar, the common linguistic heritage, and much more.
To illustrate his point, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States quoted from the famous Encyclopedia produced by Diderot and d'Alembert-- not friends of Christianity-- who acknowledged the role of the faith, saying that "Christianity, among all religions, is the one that contributes the most to welfare." "No one can deny the Christian influence in Europe without re-writing history," Archbishop Tauran stated. For that reason, he said, the Church demands a recognition of the faith-- "at least in the preamble" of the future constitutional document.
The constitution is now being drafted in Strasbourg, under the editorial direction of former French President Valery Giscaird d'Estaing. Some countries, including France, are lobbying against any explicit reference to Christianity in the document-- which is expected to be approved by 2004. Pope John Paul II has insisted, in his talks with European leaders, that the inclusion of Christianity is essential to the future of the European Union. Giscaird d'Estaing, after a meeting with the Pope, indicated his sympathy for that view.
"The Catholic Church is not looking for any privilege, or any special place in the Europe of tomorrow," Archbishop Tauran said in his talk at Montecassino. "She only asks-- for her children, and for other Christians of course-- to be able to enjoy religious liberty in the fullest sense of that term." The European constitution, he said, could ensure religious freedom against future threats.
The Pope's determination to include some mention of Christianity has drawn support from some future members of the European Union, notably including his native Poland. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Communist, has remarked that in discussions of the European constitution, "it is impossible not to take into account ethical and religious principles."