Christians Urged to Help Lead European Unification

Pope Cites Their Role in Transmitting Hope

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VATICAN CITY, MAR. 30, 2001 ( Christians have an indispensable role to play in the European Union, which entails the recovery of hope in a society threatened by technological materialism and contempt for minorities, says John Paul II.

The Pope expressed these thoughts this morning when he received the bishops of the Commission of Episcopates of the European Community (COMECE), who held a two-day plenary assembly in Rome.

The Holy Father said that the Europe emerging from the process of integration «must not only be a geographic and economic continental reality, but above all a cultural and spiritual [reality], forged thanks to a fruitful exchange of multiple and significant values and traditions.»

The Bishop of Rome described the process of European integration of the 15 countries as a sure itinerary toward peace and concord among peoples, and a faster way to attain the European common good.»

In order to accomplish this, the Pontiff called for the demolition of «invisible walls» that have been erected since the fall of the Iron Curtain, requesting that the new Europe breathe «with two lungs [the Eastern and Western], not only from the religious but also from the cultural and political point of view.»

He said the principle on which the new Europe must be founded, is «the recognition of the dignity of the human person and of his inalienable fundamental rights, the inviolability of life, liberty and justice, fraternity and solidarity.»

The Holy Father and other Church leaders have expressed consternation over the text of the European Charter of fundamental rights. In this context, the Pope affirmed that «Christianity can offer a determinant and substantial contribution of renewal and hope to the European continent.»

However, «evangelical hope» can only be transmitted if it flows from «a new missionary season that involves all those who make up the Christian people,» the Pontiff clarified.

«Sometimes the conviction arises in the contemporary world that man can establish the values he needs on his own,» the Holy Father stressed. «Society would often like to delegate the definition of its own goals to rational calculations, technology and the majority´s interest. It is necessary to energetically recall that the dignity of the human person is rooted in the Creator´s plan, so his rights are not subject to the arbitrary interventions of majorities, but must be recognized by all and kept at the center of every social plan and political decision.»

«Only an integral view of reality, inspired in perennial human values, can foster the consolidation of a community in freedom and solidarity,» the Pope concluded.

COMECE´s meeting, presided over by Bishop Josef Homeyer of Hildesheim, Germany, was attended by delegates of 14 bishops´ conferences of the European Union, as well as episcopates considered «observers.» The latter, in general, belong to countries that have requested membership in the European Union: the Czech Republic, Malta, Poland, Hungary and Switzerland.

During the discussions, it was specified that the Vatican and the commissions of European bishops «have different although complementary missions which should reinforce cooperation itself in face of the intensification of the Church´s presence in European institutions,» according to a statement by COMECE´s Commission of Episcopates.

In other actions, the bishops:
<br> –expressed their solidarity with the agricultural sector, which is grappling with «mad cow» disease and foot and mouth disease.

–said they will ask the European Commission, which is developing a common policy of asylum and immigration, to offer guarantees for the respect of human rights of persecuted individuals.

–welcomed the initiative of the European Commission and the Swedish presidency «to foster education in the new means of communion and protect children and minors from all contents that can harm their development.»

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