European Commission Chief Meets Pope

Agree on Christian Contribution to Continent

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The president of the European Commission told Benedict XVI that Christians can contribute to the process of European integration.



José Manuel Barroso shared this view today when the Pope received him in audience in his private library. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, according to statements made by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls.

The European representative then met with Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

"During the discussions, President Barroso dwelt on the current state of the European Union, the challenges awaiting it and its future prospects," Navarro Valls said.

The spokesman continued: "It was agreed that, despite current shadows, the process of integration and consolidation of European institutions may be regarded with hope.

"In the course of the conversation, particular attention was given to the ideal conditions and commitments of solidarity necessary for ensuring this process achieves stable goals, and to the contribution that Christians can make."

Barroso was accompanied by Ambassador Luis Ritto, head of the European Commission's delegation to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization; Jacques De Baenst, the European Commission's head of protocol; Pedro Cymbron and Clara Martínez Alberola, members of the president's Cabinet; and Johannes Laitenberger, the commission's spokesman.

A Catholic from Portugal, Barroso gave the Pope a ceramic statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Benedict XVI gave the president medals of his pontificate.

Catholic contribution

Barroso said later on Vatican Radio that "many of the founding fathers of Europe were Catholics and today, despite the fact that the institutions are secular, the truth is that we have had to acknowledge the contribution that Christian thought has always made to the European idea."

He added: "After this meeting with Benedict XVI, who as cardinal wrote many times on Europe, and who himself is a European of conviction, I have been very encouraged by the words of confidence that have been uttered on the future of Europe."