Bishops want God in EU birthday declaration

19.12.06 @ 09:26

  1. By Mark Beunderman

BRUSSELS - European bishops are urging for the inclusion of a reference to Christianity in the EU's 50 year anniversary declaration next year, after they failed to get "God" included in the shelved EU constitution.

  • The Vatican - "the Christian imprint on the European project has been an indisputable fact" (Photo: EUobserver.com)

In a document released last week, the Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) promotes its views on the content of the so-called Berlin Declaration - to be signed by EU leaders in March next year - marking the 50th birthday of the 1957 Treaty of Rome which laid the basis for the current European Union.

The bishops' text states that "for a majority of EU citizens their Christian faith is the living source for their support of our common values and ambitions. The Berlin Declaration, therefore, should be inclusive enough not only to list the values and ambitions of the European Union but to reflect the religious and humanistic motivation of EU citizenship."

"Thus it needs to take account of the transcendental destiny of the human person," bishops write referring to a 1963 encyclic by Pope John XXIII, but not specifying what kind of wording they would like to see in the Berlin Declaration.

The Roman Catholic leaders also note that "for many of [the EU's] founders, the Christian imprint on the European project has been an indisputable fact."

They state that the union's founding fathers in the 1950s were led by values such as human rights, the rule of law, solidarity, subsidiarity (the principle that decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level) and democracy, "with respect for human dignity at its core."

"These values correspond to Catholic social teaching which, too, is built on human dignity and the common good," the text states.

Interference with constitution

European bishops' initiative to get "God" included in the EU's birthday declaration follows an earlier failed lobby for a reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the preamble of the EU constitution, which was shelved after French and Dutch voters rejected it in referendums in 2005.

The catholic leadership's latest push highlights the political sensitivity of the Berlin declaration, the drafting of which interferes with a re-emerging debate on what to do with the constitution.

Germany, which will hold the EU presidency from 1 January, will have a key responsibility in drafting the birthday declaration - but it has also been tasked to design a roadmap on the constitution at the end of its presidency.

German chancellor Angela Merkel last spring personally spoke out in favour of a reference to God in the EU constitution, reopening the debate over the issue.

Text-drafting

In the EU institutions meanwhile, the drafting of the symbolic Berlin Declaration has already begun, with MEPs suggesting the document should include elements ranging from the union's past achievements; its ability to overcome crisis; and future challenges such as climate change.

Bishops for their part say that the Berlin declaration should speak out against a re-nationalisation of policies, reassure citizens on globalisation and stress the EU's role as a peacemaker.