European Episcopate Appeals to EU to Recognize Churches´ Contribution

Statements of Bishop Josef Homeyer, President of COMECE

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ROME, JAN. 18, 2002 ( The European Union should recognize the contribution of Christians to society, says the president of the Commission of the Episcopal Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

«We live at a time when religion is increasingly regarded as a private matter, and the contribution of religions and religious institutions to the good of society is increasingly unknown by political leaders,» Bishop Josef Homeyer of Hildsheim, Germany, said during an interview with the Italian Catholic agency SIR.

The bishop was commenting on John Paul II´s address Jan. 10 to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican, in which he noted the exclusion of communities of believers in the writing of the European Convention.

Bishop Homeyer emphasized that not everyone in the European Union excludes this dimension. For example, in the White Book for executive positions, published last year, the European Commission recognizes «the special contribution» made by the Churches and communities of believers to society.

«Although the Laeken declaration does not explicitly mention such communities, as the Holy Father pointed out, neither does it exclude them,» Bishop Homeyer said. «We certainly would have preferred that they were clearly recognized, but we are aware that there are many European citizens who would like them to be explicitly excluded.»

«The Pope has said something very important in this connection: ´To recognize an undeniable historical fact in no way means to ignore the modern demand for a just secularism of states and, therefore, of Europe,´» the German bishop noted.

He concluded: «As representatives of Churches and of communities of believers, we are not requesting an extraordinary privilege, but only that the specificity of our special contribution to society be recognized.»

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