John Paul II Touts a Way for Europe to Avoid Two Extremes

Says Recognition of Christian Heritage Wouldn’t Hurt Laicism

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2003 ( John Paul II urged that a Constitution of the European Union recognize the continent’s Christian heritage, insisting that such a move wouldn’t undercut «the just laicism of the political structures.»

In fact, the just recognition of the Christian values that forged Europe «will help to preserve the Continent from the double risk of ideological laicism, on one hand, and from sectarian fundamentalism, on the other,» the Pope said.

The Pope made his proposal today before the recitation of the Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He dedicated his address to recalling the heritage left by Sts. Cyril and Methodius, whose feast was celebrated Friday.

The two brothers played a key role in the unity of Eastern and Western Europe, at the religious and cultural level. They became the great evangelizers of the Slav peoples, for whom they created the Cyrillic alphabet.

«A characteristic of their apostolate was to remain always faithful be it to the Roman Pontiff or to the Patriarch of Constantinople, respecting the tradition and language of the Slav people,» the Pope said.

«They were inspired by a profound sense of the Church one, holy, catholic and apostolic, while Jesus’ invocation ‘ut unum sint’ [that they may be one] was their missionary motto,» the Holy Father continued.

«May their example and intercession help Christians of the East and West to reconstruct full unity among themselves,» he stressed.

«The heritage of Sts. Cyril and Methodius is precious also in the cultural realm,» the Pope added. «In fact, their work contributed to the consolidation of the common Christian roots of Europe, roots that with their sap have suffused European history and institutions.

«Precisely because of this, it has been requested that in the future constitutional treaty of the European Union space not be lacking to this common heritage of the East and West. Such reference will in no way detract from the just laicization of the political structures.»

The Holy Father concluded: «United by the values and memories of their past, European peoples will be able to carry out fully their role in the promotion of justice and peace in the whole world.»

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