VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2003 ( The Vatican again signaled that the future European Constitution must respect the community of believers and recognize their contribution to society and their legal status.

This was manifested during the exchange of ideas between John Paul II and Patrick Cox, president of the European Parliament, who was received in audience Friday with his wife and 12-member entourage. Later, he met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

Following the audience, Vatican Press Office director Joaquín Navarro-Valls explained in a statement that the Holy See does not ask for a privileged legal status. Rather, it asks "for the safeguarding of the effective exercise of religious liberty, in full respect of the secular character of civil and community institutions, as well as of non-confessional organizations," he said.

Irishman Patrick Cox, 50, a father of six and a former journalist and television host, has been president of the European Parliament since last Jan. 15.


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