John Paul II Hopes His Homeland Contributes Its Values to EU

Poles Back the Referendum on Entry to European Union

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ZADAR, Croatia, JUNE 9, 2003 ( John Paul II expressed the hope that Poland’s entry to the European Union will enable it to contribute its spiritual, moral and religious values to the continent.

From Zadar, where he was ending his apostolic visit today, the Pope also expressed the hope that his homeland’s integration in the Union will help Poland resolve its internal difficulties.

In a weekend referendum, 74.7% of the voting Poles supported Poland’s entry to the European Union, foreseen for next May 1. Voter turnout was 57.3%.

According to Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the Holy Father «hopes that this decision will be useful both for Poland as well as the European Union, where Poland will be able to contribute with its spiritual, moral and religious values,» Vatican Radio reported.

«The Pope wishes that the integration in European institutions will contribute to resolve social and economic situations that are still, at least in part, a consequence of the artificial division of Europe in past times,» Navarro-Valls added.

Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, rector of the Pontifical Theological Academy of Krakow, commented on the meaning of this membership for Poles. «We return to Europe, which for us is always the source of cultural and religious inspiration,» he said. «We return to the great Christian family.»

The bishop noted the «decisive» role of the Church in Poland, in the task of developing this plan over the last few years, «especially calming the fear of change, explaining that we, as Church, should be within contemporary life and not harbor fear, because nothing positive can be built on fear.»

For Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski of Siedlce, EU membership represents a challenge «in regard to Christian values,» the SIR agency reported.

«We believers do not expect state or international institutions to support Christian values directly, because these must defend themselves,» he said.

In any case, the bishop said that «we are called to address this new challenge which might serve to consolidate Christianity.»

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