Pope Trying to Defend Europe's True Identity, Says Cardinal Poupard

Vatican Official Addresses Limitations of Draft Constitution

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MADRID, Spain, NOV. 20, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See believes the draft of the European Constitution has two flaws: It recognizes neither the continent's Christian heritage nor the proper role of churches.



Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, explained the Catholic Church's view in Madrid when he addressed a symposium on the social doctrine of the Church, entitled "Human Rights: A Permanent Defense." The Spanish episcopal conference organized the symposium to mark the 40th anniversary of John XXIII's encyclical "Pacem in Terris."

In the opening address, the French cardinal said that "when the Holy Father tirelessly reminds of the importance of the Christian roots of Europe and -- finding strength in his frailty -- mobilizes the Holy See to see that the future Constitution of the European Union includes a reference to these roots, it is obvious that he is not seeking a position of privilege for the Catholic Church."

"Nor is it simply a nominal issue, as though it were sufficient to include a name, that of God, to satisfy a sector of the European population," Cardinal Poupard explained.

"The Catholic Church does not try to intervene in political questions that refer to the determination of the political society," he said. "The defense carried out by the Pope has, as its objective, the very identity of Europe and not just a position of advantage for the Catholic Church."

The present draft of the preamble of the Constitution is limited to mentioning the "inspiration of cultural, religious and humanist legacies of Europe."

"Only with good will can one recognize in this aseptic statement the Christian sap that has forged Europe," Cardinal Poupard said. "I think it is a serious deficiency not to mention Christianity in the future Constitution of Europe."

In regard to the Pope's second request -- the recognition of Christian churches in Europe -- the future Constitution is limited to a simple mention in Article 51 of Title VII, which states that "the Union will respect and not prejudge the recognized statute, in virtue of national Law, to the Churches and associations or religious communities in the Member States."

"It is an article that the churches share with so-called philosophical and non-confessional organizations, with which the Union 'will maintain an open, transparent, and regular dialogue,'" Cardinal Poupard continued.

The above is "a rather unfortunate solution, which poses not a few problems of a juridical nature," he said. "What are these philosophical and non-confessional organizations? In the light of this article, is it possible to distinguish between sects, alternative religious movements, and deep-rooted Churches in Europe?"

"With its interventions, the Holy See, which is not foreign to the making of Europe given its past and present history, attempts to safeguard, for the benefit of all Europeans, its own historical identity," the cardinal emphasized. "An identity that can be perfectly assumed both by those who are believers as well as those who are not."

"The omission in Europe's Magna Carta is a dangerous deficiency," the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture concluded. "Aphasia, we know, leads to amnesia, and the latter to paralysis."