EU President Brings Constitutional Campaign to Vatican

Emphasizes Moral, Not Political Force of Union

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The new president of the European Union promoted its proposed constitutional treaty in the Vatican, expressing his hopes for speedy ratification.



Cardinal Angelo Sodano received Joseph Borrell today, substituting for John Paul II who is recovering from the flu at the Gemelli Polyclinic.

"The president, above all wished to send greetings to the Holy Father John Paul II and best wishes for a speedy recovery, both from himself and from the European Parliament," read a statement published at the end of the meeting by the Vatican press office.

"President Borrell then explained some of the parliament's current activities and the prospects arising from the enlarging of the European Union, expressing the hope that the constitutional treaty will be ratified by all states," said the statement.

Borrell also spoke about the nature of the European Union, which "in harmony with the position the Holy See has always maintained, was careful to underline the nature of the European Union as a 'moral force,' with its own message regarding civilization that is always valid, that must be extended to the broader international context," continued the statement.

"The conversation also touched on problems arising from the presence of three large European bodies -- the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- with agreement on the need for clarification of their relationship," reported the Vatican press office.

Cardinal Sodano "highlighted the importance of the apostolic nunciature accredited to the European Union, in order to favor fruitful dialogue on issues of current importance," said the statement.

The post of apostolic nuncio to the European community has been vacant since December when Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz was appointed apostolic nuncio to Great Britain.

Borrell, president of the European Parliament since last July, came to the meeting accompanied by Christine Verger, his cabinet director, and Giovanni Salimbeni, director of the European Parliament's Rome office.

Cardinal Sodano was accompanied by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

Borrell, member of the Spanish Socialist Party, played a decisive part in the political fight last October to prevent Italian Rocco Buttiglione's appointment to the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. The basis of the opposition was Buttiglione's personal Christian convictions regarding homosexuality and marriage.

In January leaders of all the Polish political parties represented in the European Parliament circulated a statement in which they criticized Borrell's "lack of respect" for their country.

The response came following an interview the president gave last December in which he expressed concern about the result of the Polish referendum to ratify the European Constitutional Treaty. He criticized Poland as having "nationalist roots," "linked to its deeply-rooted religious values."