European Bishops Praise Union's New Treaty

Says Debate Over Christian Roots Is Not Over

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, OCT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The new reform treaty for the European Union will allow for more active participation of Christians, said European bishops, while adding that the debate about the Christian roots of the continent is not over.



The 27 heads of states and governments at the European Council of Lisbon agreed on the final text of the Treaty of Lisbon in the early morning hours Friday. The document replaces the Constitutional Treaty that was rejected by France and the Netherlands in 2005, a move that plunged the union into four years of institutional crisis.

Monsignor Noel Treanor, secretary-general of the Commission of Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), welcomed the agreement reached by the heads of state to approve the lengthy treaty, numbering more than 250 pages, saying it shows concern for the European common good and the interests of its citizens.

He noted, however, that the preamble to the treaty recognizes the cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance of Europe, but doesn't mention Christianity. "The debate about the Christian roots of Europe is inseparable from the reflection on the European identity; thus, it needs to be continued."

COMECE particularly welcomed the introduction of article 15b in the Lisbon treaty, which stipulates: "The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the member states.

"Recognizing their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organizations."

In a press statement, the commission of bishops said: "On the basis of this article, which introduces a new provision into the treaties, the European Union institutions will engage in a deeper dialogue with the Churches, thus allowing Christians to accompany more effectively the process of European construction. This should lead to a union characterized by more justice and solidarity and an enhanced responsibility for major global challenges."

The Reform Treaty will be officially signed by the 27 heads of states and governments Dec. 13 in Lisbon. If each of the member states ratifies the treaty within the next 12 months, the text will come into force in January 2009.