22nd Jan 2018

Volcanic ash saves Buzek from awkward Vatican meeting

  • Buzek: Liberal MEPs worry that the Roman Catholic EPP elite is too close to the Catholic church (Photo: European Parliament)

Ash from an Icelandic volcano spared EU parliament President Jerzy Buzek from a potentially awkward meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Friday (16 April).

Mr Buzek was to meet the pontiff and his "foreign minister" Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone amid the unfolding child abuse scandal which has seen the pope blamed for protecting abusive priests and Cardinal Bertone saying that homosexuality is a root cause of paedophilia - a classic tenet of homophobia.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Liberal MEPs and gay rights activists on the eve of the trip had urged Mr Buzek and other EU leaders to break Brussels' silence on the subject. But the Vatican trip was cancelled at the last minute due to the drifting cloud of ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajoekull volcano, which disrupted flights across Europe.

Liberal group leader and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt in a letter on Thursday to Mr Buzek, EU commission head Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said: "I ask you to react to these declarations, condemning them in the most unambiguous terms and to make representations to the Catholic church leadership, to ensure that truth and justice are brought to victims of paedophile crime."

"If he [Mr Buzek] doesn't raise the issue, he will have some explaining to do," Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld added.

A major gay rights advocacy group, the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), joined the appeal.

"EU leaders have a moral obligation [to speak out] under Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights [on human dignity]," the group's secretary general, Renato Sabbadini, told EUobserver. "A critical comment of this type would be very helpful would be a strong signal to the church that there are limits to the kind of things it can say to get out of trouble."

Mr Buzek, Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy's offices were all unavailable for comment when contacted by this website.

Mr Barroso is also under the Liberal spotlight due to his plan to hold a meeting with church leaders in Brussels in the coming weeks, an event which Ms in 't Veld would also like to see used to promote EU values.

A senior EU official said a Barroso statement criticising the Roman Catholic church for its handling of the paedophile priest scandal is unlikely because the issue is not an area of EU policy-making, however.

Antoine Ripoll, a spokesman for the christian-democrat EPP group in the EU parliament agreed: "I understand Mr Verhofstadt's moral point of view. But the EU as such doesn't have any competence in this area."

Ms in 't Veld paints a picture of the EPP establishment in Brussels as having too many non-transparent meetings with what she called the Roman Catholic "lobby."

Mr Buzek is a Protestant. Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy are Roman Catholic and all three are EPP members. Gay rights campaigners in the EU parliament are concerned about Mr Buzek's reluctance to take part in a video for an anti-homophobia day in May. Mr Van Rompuy has caused controversy in the past by saying Turkey should never join the EU because it does not share its "Christian values."

"In that group [the EPP] you could certainly say that MEPs from southern and eastern Europe would be less likely to be seen hurting in any way the Catholic church," the ILGA's Mr Sabbadini said.

The EPP's Mr Rippel rejected the suggestion that his group's relations with the Vatican are somehow too cozy as "ridiculous."

Correction: the article originally said Mr Buzek is a Roman Catholic. He is in fact a Protestant. The original line "Mr Buzek is known in the EU parliament for his scant support for gay rights," has also been taken out and replaced with the line: "Gay rights campaigners in the EU parliament are concerned about Mr Buzek's reluctance to take part in a video for anti-homophobia day in May."

Catalonia prepares for rule by Skype

The two biggest parties in Catalonia have vowed to put Puigdemont back in office despite Madrid's threat to maintain direct rule.

Catalonia prepares for rule by Skype

The two biggest parties in Catalonia have vowed to put Puigdemont back in office despite Madrid's threat to maintain direct rule.

News in Brief

  1. Austria plans to sue Commission over Hungary's nuclear plant
  2. Puigdemont proposed as sole candidate for Catalan leadership
  3. Abbas in Brussels to discuss Palestinian state recognition
  4. Exiled Catalan leader leaves Belgium for first time
  5. CSU politicians set to oppose concessions to SPD
  6. Greek mass protests against use of 'Macedonia' in name dispute
  7. Oxfam report reveals inequality as Davos elite gather
  8. Macron: France would probably have voted to quit EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. How Oettinger's CO2 permit sale could fill Brexit blackhole
  2. New Polish foreign minister tries to charm EU commission
  3. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on agenda This WEEK
  4. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  5. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  6. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  7. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  8. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap