European Convention Might Shut Out Mention of Christian Values

So Says Vice President Jean-Luc Dehaene

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ROME, MARCH 3, 2002 ( The convention that will outline the future of the European Union might not be able to make explicit reference to Christian values, warns one of the officials of the forum.

Jean-Luc Dehaene, vice president of the European Convention, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire that the endeavor to recall the continent´s religious heritage created problems in the writing of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In this text, published in October 2000, France rejected any mention of religious values on the grounds that it violated the French principle of church-state separation.

In a Jan. 10 address, John Paul II lamented that the communities of believers were not taken explicitly into account in the convention´s «Forum of the Civil Society,» a network that should allow the participation of all citizens in the convention´s debate.

Dehaene believes that the experience of the writing of the EU Charter counsels no further reference to the subject of religious values in the convention. «In any case, it is clear that values originated by Christianity have become universal and are the foundation of European society,» he said.

The opinion of Dehaene is especially important, since he is responsible for organizing the work of the Forum of Civil Society.

The European Convention, which opened Thursday in Brussels, will last a year. The final reform will be defined in 2004 during an intergovernmental conference (namely, the EU governments), which will base its conclusions on the proposals presented by this 105-member convention.

Sources of the European Commission told ZENIT that the reform is necessary because the EU hopes to define its role in the world, to be close to citizens and to be effective when an additional 10 members join it in 2004.

Romano Prodi, commission president, told the member governments that no one will be able to control the convention´s course, given that it deals with a «totally original» debate.

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