Philosopher Backs Pope on Issue of European Identity

Massimo Cacciari Comments on Charter of Fundamental Rights

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VENICE, Italy, DEC. 18, 2000 (
It is «inconceivable» that Europe does not question itself about its own Christian identity, says Italian philosopher Massimo Cacciari.

Cacciari, a leftist intellectual, who until recently was mayor of Venice, had this conviction before the European Charter of Fundamental Rights was written. He has repeated it forcefully since the European summit at Nice, especially after reading the Pope´s message on this matter. In a message Saturday to a symposium, John Paul II expressed, among other things, «disappointment over the fact that the charter´s text does not include a reference to God.»

«The Pope is absolutely right: European identity is not a geographic identity,» Cacciari said. «It is a cultural and religious identity based on Christianity. Although it must not be forgotten that at times this Christian identity is dramatic. In the past, Christian Europe has lived, in fact, through confrontations, lacerations and contradictions.»

«To tell the truth, in the charter proclaimed at Nice, not only are all forms of metapolitical thought missing, but, in fact, the whole political dimension is also lacking. The Pope is absolutely right in denouncing the incredible delay in addressing the problem of the cultural, political and, consequently, religious identity of Europe. Moreover, in my opinion, a generic reference to God would not resolve the problem because this invocation, placed perhaps, in the charter´s introduction, would not have found any foundation in the body of the text.»

–Q: How should Europe´s Christian identity have been made explicit in the description of rights?

–Cacciari: Certain principles and values that belong to the Christian tradition should have been reinforced. I am referring to the concepts of person, subsidiarity and solidarity. These are principles that are not generic but indispensable in defining policies. For example, they are the foundation of a common policy in matters of acceptance of foreigners that is, in a policy of immigration.

How can Europe be constructed like this? On what ethical, as well as political and cultural, assumptions? In sum, the charter could have or should have done a thousand more things, reassuming in itself the values and principles proper to Christianity.

–Q: The greatest lack is life and family issues.

–Cacciari: I can understand the Church´s disappointment, but we must pay attention, in normative terms, to laws and procedures of the state and states. The fact of placing itself at this level might entail risks.

–Q: The Pope wrote that Europe cannot do without an energetic effort to recover the cultural legacy of Charlemagne. Do you agree?

–Cacciari: Undoubtedly. Great historians who were nonbelievers have explained this. These are historical truths that have already been judged. They also agree with the affirmation that education in the spirit of Christian humanism guarantees the intellectual and moral formation necessary for youth to address the problems of scientific and technological development.

Having said this, however, one must focus in depth on what Christian humanism is, because there have been differences and dissonances in its interior. If we don´t teach these to youth, we will not succeed in educating them well in a European identity. In any case, it is absurd to think of any new European identity without keeping this past in mind (with all it might signify).

–Q: Perhaps a return to the study of classical languages, as the Pope suggests?

–Cacciari: Amen.

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