Friday, October 29, 2004

New Constitution Ignores Europe's Christian History

New constitution ignores Europe's Christian history
By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service
Friday, October 29, 2004, 12:00 A.M. Pacific

VATICAN CITY — When European Union leaders gather in Rome to sign their new constitution today, they will rebuff Pope John Paul II and his effort to acknowledge Christianity in the historic document.
The Roman Catholic pontiff has often voiced concern about Europe's increasingly secular society. In the signing of a constitution that does not acknowledge Europe's religious history, the Vatican sees proof that the EU is distancing itself from Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.
The drafters of the constitution have made it clear for months that they would ignore the pope's tireless 2-1/2-year campaign for explicit Christian recognition in the constitution's preamble. The pope's opponents, with France, Belgium and Finland in the forefront, argued that a reference to Christianity would have violated the principle of church-state separation. The charter, which still must be ratified by all 25 members of the enlarged EU to take effect, does uphold religious freedom, however.
Nonetheless, John Paul is clearly upset.
"You don't cut off the roots from which you have grown," the pope said with unusual bitterness when forced to acknowledge defeat last June.
Earlier this week came a second blow.
Opposition within the European Parliament blocked confirmation of an Italian candidate for commissioner of justice and security who was criticized for his conservative views on homosexuality and marriage, which mirror church doctrine.
Rocco Buttiglione, a center-right politician and academic, called homosexuality "a sin," although not a crime, and upheld marriage as an institution that existed for women to have children and be protected by their husbands.
Compounding the offense to the Vatican, Buttiglione has a warm acquaintance with the pope.
As liberals mounted opposition to Buttiglione's candidacy, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, the Vatican's longtime permanent observer at the United Nations who is now president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, exploded. He told a Vatican news conference Oct. 18 that Christians in general and the Catholic Church in particular face "a new holy Inquisition full of money and arrogance."
"Everything goes, from intimidation to public dishonor, as long as it serves to silence their voices," he said.
Yesterday, the eve of the signing ceremony, the pope met at the Vatican with another Italian politician for whom he has affection, retiring EU Commission President Romano Prodi, a leader of Italy's center-left.
John Paul took the opportunity to make his own feelings about the EU known.
Those feelings are ambivalent. During the Cold War, the Polish-born pontiff spoke of his hope for the day when Europe would once more "breathe with both its lungs," East with West, and the Vatican assured Ukraine only Wednesday that it supports the "return of all the countries of the East to the bosom of the great European family."
"The Holy See favored the formation of the European Union even before it had a juridical structure and then followed its various stages with active interest," John Paul said in his welcome to Prodi.
But, the pope said, the Vatican also has felt the duty "to openly express the just expectations of a great number of Christian citizens of Europe."
"For this reason, the Holy See has reminded everyone how Christianity, in its various expressions, contributed to the formation of a common conscience of the European peoples and gave a great contribution to molding their civilization," he said.
"Recognized or not in official documents, it is an undeniable fact that no history will be able to forget," the pope said.
John Paul made a more guarded reference to the Buttiglione controversy, which has forced Prodi's successor, José Manuel Barroso of Portugal, to delay a vote on his own appointment and that of the entire new European Commission. Barroso is under pressure to withdraw Buttiglione's nomination.
"I express the hope that the difficulties arising in recent days regarding the new commission may find a solution of reciprocal respect in the spirit of harmony between all the requests involved," he said.
Because of the effects that Parkinson's disease has had on his ability to speak clearly, the 84-year-old pope did not go through the formality of reading the message.