Vatican Address to Council of Europe

A New Europe to Be Founded on "Freedom and Equality"

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address, delivered in English by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, at the third summit of heads of state and governments of the Council of Europe, held in Warsaw, Poland, from May 16-17.



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1. European Unity and European Values

1. It is my honor to convey to all present the cordial greetings of the new Pope, Benedict XVI, who in the choice of his name intended to recall one of the great architects of European civilization. In some of his previous talks and publications he has proposed a number of considerations, both historical and doctrinal, on the subject of European unity and values, which remain relevant and worthy of attention.

2. This theme, to which the present session is dedicated, is something particularly important for the Holy See. Pius XII in his Christmas message of 1944 proposed to Europe a "true democracy founded on freedom and equality" ("Acta Apostolicae Sedis," 37 (1945)14), and on May 9, 1945 he spoke of "a new Europe ... founded on respect for human dignity, for the sacred principle of equality of rights for all peoples, all states, large or small, weak or strong" (ibid, 129-130). Pope Paul VI dedicated keen and increasing attention to the same subject. And all are aware of the incessant, passionate and active commitment of John Paul II to a Europe corresponding more fully to its geographical, and especially to its historical identity. Here in his Polish homeland, I am particularly pleased to recall his great and lovable personality.

3. Europe will be loved by its citizens and will serve as an agent of peace and civilization in the world only if it is animated by certain fundamental values:

a. The promotion of human dignity and fundamental human rights, among which in the first place freedom of conscience and religion.

b. The pursuit of the common good in a spirit of solidarity.

c. Respect for national and cultural identity.

These values obviously are shared by all, however, if they are to take on a clear focus and not remain generic, they must refer to Europe's own history because this is what constitutes Europe in its spiritual identity. For this reason the Holy See views with satisfaction the commitment expressed in the Preamble of the Declaration, paragraph 6, "to the universal values and principles which are rooted in Europe's cultural, religious and humanistic heritage." The pre-eminent role that Christianity has played in forming and developing this cultural, religious and humanistic patrimony is well known to all and cannot be ignored.

2. Challenges Facing European Societies

Europe is faced with challenges arising from its own internal dynamism as well as challenges in its encounter with world problems. It cannot address one set of challenges successfully without responding adequately to the other.

1. As to the first, the Council of Europe, as a guarantor of democratic security, based on respect for human rights and the rule of law, is confronted with two requirements:

a. The need to prevent the principle of equality from compromising the protection of legitimate diversity: justice in fact requires equal relationships to be treated equally and diverse relationships to be treated diversely;

b. The need to prevent the principle of individual freedom from being dislodged from its natural insertion in the totality of social relationships, and therefore from the principle of social responsibility, which in fact constitutes an essential component of its positive value.
The consequences of this confrontation on the level of international relations, as well as on the social, family and individual levels are evident.

2. On the other hand, many concrete challenges derive from the great world-wide problems handed down from the 20th century: the nuclear threat, which is now in danger of escaping from the exclusive historic responsibility of the great powers, the emergence of forms of political and religious fundamentalism, large-scale migration of peoples and certain situations of dangerous instability at the state level, even in the European arena. I am referring here particularly to the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Kosovo region, both of which are in need of a reliable solution, which cannot be reached without providing effective guarantees for minorities.

3. In a spirit of service the Holy See offers her own support and that of the whole Catholic Church in order to respond adequately to these challenges. She is persuaded that the message of fraternity, proper to the Gospel, the vast charitable action of Catholic organizations, the commitment to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue can be conjoined naturally to the commitment to political, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, mentioned in the final declaration of this assembly which the Holy See willingly supports.

3. The Construction of Europe

I would like to say a few words about the construction of Europe. The delegation of the Holy See does not presume to propose technical solutions but would like to offer some simple considerations as a contribution to our common reflection.

1. A better coordination of European organizations is not only an imperative of political and conceptual coherence or financial considerations, but is required by the original creative spirit of the European project. The success of this project in fact does not require just the smooth functioning of each of the principal institutions, but their common balanced synergy which allows the citizens of Europe to see Europe as their "common home" at the service of the human person and society.

2. Given its widely recognized competence, acquired in the juridical area, the experience of the Council of Europe is particularly important because it sketches the outlines of what could become a blueprint for European society. The more than 150 conventions of the Council of Europe, dealing with education, culture, minorities, refugees, immigration, ecology, the media etc. cover a notable part of the sectors involved in the social dimension.

Furthermore the territorial extension acquired by the Council of Europe draws it close to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OCSE, however, is also marked by its transatlantic dimension, something indispensable for maintaining peace in a globalized world and for fulfilling its mandate with regard to conflicts. From the three ways of European construction outlined in the three baskets of the OSCE -- concerning respectively security policies, economic and ecological cooperation, and the human dimension -- clearly it is this last factor which offers the broadest field of cooperation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

3. Regarding the European Union, it is in the juridical sector in relation to human rights that one finds further concrete possibilities for closer institutional cooperation. The common commitment to corroborate the human rights and the legal protection of European citizens -- reaffirmed by the will of the European Union to adhere to the European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental liberties -- must be given adequate expression in the propositions to be presented by the Coordination Group created in December 2004.

4. I would like to conclude by stating clearly that in the construction of the great European project the Holy See will not fail to continue to offer her cooperation.

[Original text: English]