Former Polish Prime Minister Mazowiecki on John Paul II´s Interest

Says Pope Follows European Affairs Closely

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WARSAW, Poland, JAN. 11, 2002 ( Tadeusz Mazowiecki sees personal overtones in John Paul II´s address Thursday on the state of the world.

“When there is talk of Europe, the Pope — this Pope — feels personally involved,” said Mazowiecki, a friend of Karol Wojtyla and first head of a democratic government of a Communist bloc country.

“The intense tone with which he has returned to the argument in his address to the diplomatic corps is further confirmation,” Mazowiecki said, after reading the papal address.

Mazowiecki has always looked to the European Union with special attention. Founder and current president of the Robert Schuman Institute in Warsaw, the former Prime Minister established the bases for Poland´s integration in the EU. Until recently, he was head of the national parliamentary commission for integration in Europe.

Q: How can one explain the Pope´s decision to address the topic of the European Union´s convention and the exclusion of communities of believers from the reflection on the future Constitution of Europe, in an address with a broad appraisal of the present state of the world?

Mazowiecki: There is nothing strange; rather, it seems to me it is in continuity with the whole of this Pope´s teaching.

Since the beginning of his pontificate, he has always supported Europe´s unity, not only as an economic or political entity but as a spiritual reality, which also included that half of the Continent under Communist dictatorship. “We are Europe, we have always been,” he used to say when he was bishop of Krakow.

He wished to repeat the same thing in June 1999 when he addressed the Polish Parliament. Hence, it is obvious that he follows the affairs of the European Union with attention, I would say almost with passion, and that he feels saddened by certain decisions, such as the one taken at the Laeken summit.

Q: In this connection, John Paul II speaks of injustice and error of perspective.

Mazowiecki: We know this, Pope Wojtyla is one who knows when it is necessary to raise his voice. And here, the marginalization of the Christian fact, of the Churches, is at stake. It is the same as when he protested against the Communist regimes that suffocated the freedom to profess one´s faith.

The issue is always that of religious liberty — a liberty that, as the Holy Father has often recalled, is the first and fundamental liberty. The defense of human rights, which everyone recognizes as one of the leitmotifs of Wojtyla´s pontificate, begins here. We must not forget it.

Q: The European Union´s charter of fundamental rights does not refer to the churches and religious communities. As an intellectual and expert in European issues, how do you judge this?

Mazowiecki: It is the result of a political compromise among different tendencies present in Europe today. It is known that, in an effort to safeguard a certain concept of secularism, French pressures have been very strong. In the end, this compromise text has resulted. I must say it is a bad compromise.

Q: In your opinion, is there a possibility that the charter will be changed?

Mazowiecki: As we know, the European Union´s text on fundamental rights was approved at the Nice summit of December 2000. I think the possibility still exists to introduce modifications. The work of the convention must begin, there is the whole debate on what the new Constitution of Europe should be. It is the occasion to reopen certain fundamental questions.

Q: Will the fact that John Paul II spoke about it so explicitly, have some effect on the convention?

Mazowiecki: I hope so. However, I would like to remind you of something: the Pope has spoken of Europe and of European unification in positive terms, as a reason for satisfaction. This is something very important, especially for Poland, which is trying to enter the European Union.

In fact, John Paul II removes the authority of those anti-European and ultranationalist groups that see the European Union as a new evil empire. His invitation is to greater commitment, not rejection.

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