A New Europe Inspired by Christian Values Is Urged

Vatican Asks Italian Leaders for Help

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ROME, FEB. 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican appealed to Italy for its cooperation in having Christian values inspire the process of the construction of a new Europe.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, made the petition during a meeting with Italy´s highest authorities, including President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The meeting took place at the Italian Embassy in the Vatican.

At the end of this traditional annual meeting, Cardinal Sodano told the press that the participants discussed «our cooperation for the construction of a new Europe, inspired by the ethical and Christian principles that have made it great.»

On Jan. 10, John Paul II lamented that the European Union summit held in Laeken, Belgium, in December did not explicitly mention the contribution of communities of believers in the creation of the European Convention.

The Convention, which will hold its inaugural meeting March 1, will address over the course of the year the most important questions related to European integration. Some observers think the Convention will establish the basis for a European Constitution.

It was announced at Laeken that the Convention will be open to the civil society, but no mention was made of churches and religious communities.

This apparent exclusion contrasts with the publication of the «White Paper on European Governance,» published by the European Commission last July.

That document, in defining the agents included in «civil society,» recognized «a special contribution on the part of the churches and religious communities.»

The debate on the contribution of Christians in Europe broke out in connection with the wording of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, published in October 2000. France rejected the German parliamentarians´ draft of the preface, which referred to the «cultural, humanist and religious heritage» of the Continent.

French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said that the wording contradicted their nation´s principle of church-state separation.

The final text avoids mention of the world «religious.» It reads: «Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.»

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