Recognizing Christian Heritage Is No Slap at Laicism, Says Vatican Official

Archbishop Martino Analyzes Work of European Convention

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ROME, JAN. 28, 2003 ( The convention that will define Europe’s constitutional future runs the risk of forgetting the continent’s religious and spiritual heritage, warn representatives of the Holy See.

«European culture sinks its roots in the Greco-Roman civilization, has benefited from the contributions of Judaism and Islam, but has been marked primarily by the stamp of Christianity during two millenniums,» said Archbishop Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

He was among the representatives addressed a conference on «The European Convention and the Christian Roots of Europe from East to West,» organized by the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the Guile Foundation. It also had the support of the president of Italy and the president of the Council of Ministers.

«The Christian stamp constitutes Europe’s specificity, testified by the founding fathers themselves; such heritage cannot be denied,» Archbishop Martino said. «To recognize it does not mean to contradict the principle of laicism, but to interpret it in the correct way.»

He added that «it is not acceptable that in an era of openness and respect toward all human convictions, a discriminatory tendency is manifested vis-à-vis religion.»

The Vatican official warned about the tendency to ignore the transcendent dimension of human beings. «Indifference toward such a dimension can only lead to tragic effects, as the history of the European continent has painfully demonstrated.»

Archbishop Martino also expressed the hope that the European Union will recognize the identity and organization of churches out of respect for fundamental human rights.

«The EU could begin a structured dialogue with them, the result of which will surely be to favor and consolidate the progress of the Union itself,» he concluded.

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