Christian Representatives Accept Draft of Euro-Constitution

“Growing Consensus on the Place of Religion in the Future EU”

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, MAY 27, 2003 ( Christian representatives accepted the changes made to the draft of the European Constitution, particularly the reference to the recognition of the status of the Churches and religious communities.

The publication of the revised draft of the first part of the Constitutional Treaty was accepted in a joint statement issued today by the Reverend Rüdiger Noll, director of the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), and Monsignor Noël Treanor, secretary-general of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

CEC is a fellowship of 126 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic churches from all countries of Europe, plus 43 associated organizations.

COMECE is a commission of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the member states of the European Union. The conferences of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland are associate members.

After congratulating the members of the European Convention for the work achieved so far, the joint statement applauds “the amendments which will strengthen the Union’s commitment to a social market economy and, in its relations with the wider world, to promote peace, security, free and fair trade, protection of human rights and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

The Christian representatives also approved the last redaction of Title VI of the Constitution on “Democratic Life of the Union,” which they considered visibly improved.

“We welcome the growing consensus on the place of religion in the future EU as reflected by the amended draft Article 51 (previously Article 37),” the statement continues.

“This article guarantees the EU’s respect for the status of churches and religious communities in the member states based on their different constitutional traditions,” it adds.

“The provision for open, transparent and regular dialogue reflects the specific contribution of churches and religious communities, distinct from secular authority, at the service of society as a whole,” the Christian representatives clarify.

The statement ends with the hope that, over the next few weeks, the members of the commission will be able to reach a final consensus.

The draft of the European Constitution, presented on Monday and analyzed by the joint statement, does not include a reference to Europe’s religious roots. Members of the Presidium, an assembly of 105 representatives among whom is Valéry Giscard dEstaing, president of the convention, have requested that the religious roots be mentioned in the Preamble.

In an interview Sunday with the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, said that the preamble might be the proper place to mention the “religious heritage, especially Christian” of Europe.

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