Draft Preamble of Euro-Constitution Omits Mention of Christianity

Refers to Religion Generically

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ROME, MAY 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The draft Preamble of the future European Constitution fails to mention the Christian roots of the Old World.

The draft, published Wednesday, refers to “the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe which … [was] nourished first by the civilizations of Greece and Rome” and “later by philosophical currents of the Enlightenment.”

According to the document, this foundation “has embedded within the life of society its perception of the central role of the human person and his inviolable and inalienable rights, and of respect for law” (see European Convention’s Web page at
european-convention.eu.int).

Thus, there is a more explicit religious reference than in the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which alludes to the Union’s “spiritual and moral heritage,” denying a reference to religion.

However, the draft does not include other possibilities defended by some members of the European Convention; they proposed that reference be made to the “religious heritage, especially Christian,” which forged the continent. This proposal was supported by Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, in an interview Sunday with the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.

A press statement published Wednesday by representatives of the churches and Christian communities of Europe expressed their concern about the draft Preamble.

“A Europe which disavowed its past, which denied the fact of religion, and which had no spiritual dimension would be greatly impoverished in facing up to the ambitious project which calls upon all its available energy: constructing a Europe for all” (see the Web site of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, www.comece.org).

Josep Miro i Ardevol, president of the Convention of Christians for Europe, said in a statement that the draft Preamble “is totally unsatisfactory and might generate a factor of additional division to the already damaged political unity of Europe.”

“It borders on the ridiculous that the Preamble should make nominal reference to the Hellenistic and Roman component and jump directly to the ‘philosophers of the Enlightenment,’ omitting the Christian reference without which the Enlightenment is incomprehensible,” Miro stated.

“To ignore, as the text does, the reality of European identity, which has Christianity as one of its basic components, constitutes an ideological imposition and expresses the political will that exclusive laicism constitute the sole cultural category and possible reference, thus marginalizing the religious factor,” he said.

In an interview on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Roberto Tucci, a member of the executive council of the radio, said that the members of the Presidium did not understand the meaning of the proposal.

“It was not a question of adherence [to Christianity], but of recognizing the historical fact of the enormous influence that Christian culture has had on European culture,” the cardinal explained.

“The most unifying factor of Europe, which has been Christian culture, is missing” in the Preamble, he said.

The resulting draft “stems from a secular tradition” as well as from “a certain loss of the religious practice of faith” in Europe, the cardinal added.

“This must not make one forget that hundreds of millions of Europeans identify with Christian values, although perhaps they are not believers. Moreover, there is a great number of people who believe,” he added.

Giorgio Rumi, professor of contemporary history at the University of Milan, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire: “I feel profoundly offended as a European citizen and as a historian.”

“I think that between Athens, Rome and the Enlightenment — the three mentioned — there is something decisive in-between,” he said. “I am not speaking of confessional pretensions, but of that name in which whole generations have lived and hoped. Is it possible that the mention of Christ causes so much fear still today?”

“The Christian factor is the most unifying” of Europe, he insisted.

The Presidium also rejected a generic reference to “believe in God,” presented by former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, member of that body.

In a statement to Avvenire, Bruton explained that “it is only the first draft of the Preamble, and over the next few days there will be a full debate by the convention. Therefore, there is a possibility and time to modify it.”

The text of the draft will be debated by the convention and then presented to European leaders at their summit June 20 in Athens, Greece. They will have the last word on the document.

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