European Integration Not Opposed to Christian Values, Says Pope

Encourages Participation of Local Churches in the Process

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2004 ( John Paul II said the construction of the European Union need not be in opposition to Christian values, and he encouraged local Churches to participate in the process.

The Pope voiced this view to the French bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Besançon and the Archdiocese of Strasbourg when he received them in audience at the end of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

«Today I invite the local Churches to commit themselves ever more firmly in favor of European integration,» the Holy Father said.

«To achieve this result, it is necessary to reread history and recall that, throughout the centuries, the Christian anthropological, moral and spiritual values contributed to a large extent to shaping the various European nations and to knitting their profound ties,» he said.

«The numerous and beautiful churches, signs of the faith of our forbears, which rise in the Continent, manifest and remind us of those values that have been the principle and foundation of relations between persons and peoples; union cannot be effected, then, to the detriment of those values or in opposition to them,» the Pope added.

«In fact, relations between the different countries cannot be based only on economic or political interests — the debates on globalization show this clearly to us — or on alliances of convenience, which would render fragile the enlargement that is under way, and which could lead to a return of ideologies of the past that scorned man and humanity,» he said.

«These ties should have as their end the constitution of a Europe of peoples, thus allowing to surmount definitively and radically the conflicts that have bloodied the Continent during the whole of the 20th century,» the Holy Father urged.

«At this price, a Europe will be born whose identity will be based on a community of values, a Europe of fraternity and solidarity, which alone can take into account the differences, because its perspective is the promotion of man, respect of his inalienable rights, and the quest for the common good, for the happiness and prosperity of all,» he added.

«Because of her centuries-old presence in the diverse countries of the Continent, because of her participation in the unity between peoples and cultures, and in social life, notably in the educational, charitable, health and social realms, the Church wishes to contribute increasingly to the unity of the Continent,» John Paul II said.

In this work, the Church seeks above all «the service of mankind and of peoples, in respect of their profound beliefs and aspirations,» he said.

The Holy Father pointed to Archbishop Michael Courtney as an example of promotion of the unity of the Continent and its original values.

The Irish-born archbishop was slain in December while working to promote peace in Burundi, where he was apostolic nuncio. Previously, he was permanent observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe.

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