Europe Should Reach Out to Third World, Says Vatican Official

Urges Continent to Be More Than a Power Broker

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 25, 2004 (ZENIT.org).- More than being an international power broker, the European Union should become a "partner in solidarity" for the cultural and economic development of the Third World, says a Vatican official.



Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, made that suggestion in the wake of the tentative adoption of the European Constitution.

In an interview published Wednesday in the newspaper Avvenire, the archbishop said the Holy See generally welcomed the document, though it lacked mention of the "indisputable" Christian heritage of Europe.

"I would like to recall above all that there have been few governments that have categorically opposed the mention of a specific Christian religious heritage. And it is sad to say that those are precisely the countries in whose history and in whose culture Christianity has played a highly apt and indisputable part."

According to the prelate, an "evident ideological prejudice" motivated the opposition, but also the "fear that the explicit mention of the Christian heritage could make the 'European house' less acceptable to a Muslim country that could possibly form part of it."

This fear is unfounded, Archbishop Lajolo said. It is precisely from Christianity, he insisted, that arises "the principle of religious liberty and the clear distinction between religious and political spheres that allows for peaceful coexistence between distinct religions within one political organization."

Positive elements of the texts include that it "safeguards the status of the Church among the other member states; it recognizes its political identity and its specific contribution and promises an open and regular dialogue," the archbishop said.

These are elements that can be the "beginning of a beneficial path, although not one that will always be easy," warned the Vatican official.

The European Union now has the challenge of drawing its citizens closer to its institutions and making "the great principles, such as solidarity and subsidiarity, more understandable and perceptible," and indicating "specific goals in the areas of society, culture and politics that European states can only achieve united," Archbishop Lajolo said.

It is "necessary to ask oneself how can one make European citizens more conscientious of a united Europe and make it something worthwhile to get excited about," he continued.

How can Europe "be not only a technical, economic solution -- although valid -- but rather a great political project, that is to say, in short, a social goal and thus a moral option," the prelate said.

A politically strong Europe could make a huge difference "with regards to the balance of power between the great world powers, those countries that among themselves determine international politics and outline its course for the future," he added.

"But even more, the EU should propose itself, in my opinion, as a partner for the economic and cultural development of the countries of the Third World," Archbishop Lajolo said.

He said this would be a role that "could be played out not as the 'better partner,' but as a 'partner in solidarity,' initiator of joint projects not only in the area of technical and economic development, but also in the area of research, information, culture and social projects."