Italian Bishops Ask Mention of Christianity in Euro-Constitution

Urge Protection for Autonomy of Churches and Religious Groups

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ROME, FEB. 28, 2003 ( A bishops’ conference official told Italian parliamentarians that to mention the continent’s Christian roots in a European Constitution would be no «mere formal homage to an element of tradition.»

Bishop Giuseppe Betori, secretary of the Italian episcopal conference, took his message to the Italian Congress’ and Senate’s Foreign Affairs Commissions on Wednesday.

«The religious heritage is the source of inspiration for a great majority of the population of our continent, who recognize themselves in the Christian religion and in the Churches and religious communities that work in European society at the service of the common good,» Bishop Betori said.

He outlined three points that Christian confessions would like to see in a Constitution:

— First, the future Constitution should recognize the institutional autonomy of the churches and religious communities, which implies the right to freely organize themselves according to their own statutes.

— Second, there should be specific recognition of the identity and role played in society by the churches and religious communities, as well as a provision for structured dialogue between them and the European Union.

— Third, the EU’s legislation must respect explicitly the special statute that every church and religious community enjoys in national legislations.

These proposals in no way suggest «a privileged juridical status for the churches and religious communities,» Bishop Betori emphasized.

He added there is a desire «to elaborate a framework that will guarantee the effective and full exercise of religious freedom … in full respect of the laicism of civil and communal institutions, as well as of non-confessional organizations.»

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