Europe Could Lose Identity If It Ignores Christianity's Role, Says Pope

Repeats Concerns as He Receives New German Ambassador

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 13, 2002 ( For the third time in 12 days, John Paul II insisted that a European Constitution should recognize the role of Christianity in the continent’s history.

The Pope presented the Catholic Church’s proposal when he received the letters of credence of Gerhard Westdickenberg, 57, the new German ambassador to the Vatican.

In his address today, the Pope said, «The Holy See has favored the process of unification of Europe since the beginning,» and he underlined «the spiritual-cultural identity» of the continent.

«To neglect or even abandon this heritage would be to endanger and end up by losing one’s own identity,» the Holy Father stressed.

The Pontiff made similar claims when he met with the new ambassadors of Greece and Slovenia last week.

The exclusion of representatives of communities of believers from the European Convention has been decried by John Paul II.

Quoting his 1999 letter «Spes Aedificandi,» with which he proclaimed the co-patronesses of Europe, he said that «Christianity represents a central and determinant element» of the history of the continent.

The Holy Father then emphasized the need to introduce a «clear reference to God and to the Christian faith» in the European Constitutional Charter, for which he requested the «specific contribution» of German experts and political leaders.

Among other things, the Pope praised the German commitment to poor nations, despite the problems linked to reunification, and appealed to the Germans to continue to promote human rights, including the right to life.

For his part, the new German ambassador acknowledged the contribution of the Catholic Church and of John Paul II to the process of European integration, and said he hoped that this support will continue.

The ambassador also acknowledged the role of Christian churches and denominations in promoting harmony in the Old World, in particular, with the signing of the Ecumenical Charter in Strasbourg, France, last year.

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