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Ratzinger on Turkey in EU, European secularism August 11, 2004

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in an interview released on Wednesday that Turkey should seek to join Islamic nations rather attempt to join the European Union. The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told France's Le Figaro magazine that Turkey had always been "in permanent contrast to Europe," and that it should look to its roots for closer associations.

"In the course of history, Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe," Ratzinger told the magazine, noting that the history of Ottoman Empire, which once invaded Europe as far as Vienna. "Making the two continents identical would be a mistake," he said. "It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of the cultural to the benefit of economics." The born cardinal said Turkey "could try to set up a cultural continent with neighboring Arab countries and become the leading figure of a culture with its own identity."

He added that he could envision such an Islamic entity forming certain ties with the European Union, working together to fight extremism, for example.

The cardinal also said that the European Union should not ignore its Christian heritage. A debate has been raging in Europe over whether to include a specific mention of the debt owed to Christianity in the EU's proposed constitution. "We should continue the debate on this question because I fear that behind this opposition (to mentioning Christianity in the European constitution) hides a hatred Europe has against itself and its great history," he said.

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