Pope Reiterates Christianity's Role in Making of Europe

Meets Prodi on the Eve of Signing of Constitutional Treaty

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Although the Constitution of the European Union does not acknowledge it, Christianity has had a decisive role in the making of the continent, says John Paul II.



The Pope shared that insight today during a meeting with Romano Prodi, the outgoing president of the European Commission.

The meeting took place on the eve of the signing of the Constitutional Treaty by the representatives of the 25 members of the European Union. It gave Prodi, in his capacity as European commissioner, the chance to take leave of the Holy Father.

"The site chosen for the signing, the same one in which the European Community was born in 1957, has a clear symbolic value," John Paul II said. "Whoever speaks of Rome, speaks of the radiation of universal juridical and spiritual values."

"The Holy See favored the formation of the EU before it was juridically structured, and has followed the successive stages with active interest," the Pope said. "It has always felt the need to express openly the just expectations of a great number of Christian citizens of Europe, who have so requested it.

"This is why, the Holy See has reminded all that Christianity, in its different expressions, has contributed to the formation of a common conscience of European peoples and has helped enormously in shaping its civilizations. Whether or not it is recognized in official documents, it is an undeniable fact that no historian will be able to forget."

The meeting was friendly, as the Pope has known Prodi, a practicing Catholic, for years.

"Holiness, how are you?" the European representative asked when being received by John Paul II.

"Quite well," replied the Pope, as he put his hand on Prodi's back in a gesture of affection.

"I have come to the end of my mandate," Prodi said to John Paul II, as the door of the Pope's library closed and their 10-minute private meeting commenced.

The second part of the audience, which lasted another 10 minutes, included Prodi's relatives and aides. The Holy Father patted the European commissioner's two little granddaughters.

The Pope congratulated Prodi for his work in the European Commission and expressed the hope that "the difficulties that have arisen in these days concerning the new commission will find a solution of reciprocal respect in a spirit of concord among all the authorities concerned."

The commission's president-designate, Durao Barroso of Portugal, has had to withdraw his proposed team, above all, because a parliamentary commission rejected the commissioner-designate of Justice and the Interior, Rocco Buttiglione.

Buttiglione was rejected for having expressed his position, as a Catholic, on issues such as homosexuality and the family.

The Holy Father said: "May the European Union express always the best of the great traditions of its member states, work actively in the international realm for peace among peoples, and offer generous aid for the growth of the neediest peoples of the other continents."

After his meeting with the Pope, Prodi met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, who was accompanied by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

"During the talks," said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls, "they reviewed some of the present problems, with special reference to European unity and Europe's international role, particularly for peace in the world and the development of peoples, especially those of Africa."

Prodi gave the Pope a book with aerial photographs of Europe, as well as a reproduction of the continent from on high.

"I have taken the liberty to write a dedication to you, who have shown us Europe from on high," he said.