Pope speaks of his love for the Irish
Pope John Paul II has spoken of his "deep affection for the Irish people", suggesting Ireland has an "essential role" to play in affirming Christian identity in the soon to be enlarged European Union.
Independent Catholic News reports that the comments were made as the Holy Father welcomed Irish President Mary McAleese to the Vatican on Thrusday.
In remarks that will be seen as fuelling the debate surrounding the inclusion of Christian references in the proposed European Union constitution, John Paul told McAleese: "Ireland, with its rich Christian history and its outstanding patrimony of spiritual and cultural values, has an essential role to play in the building of the new Europe and the affirmation of its deepest identity."
The Vatican has been battling for the Europe's Christian roots to be referred to in the new EU constitution.
But the move is opposed by a number of countries, including Turkey, which looks likely to become a member in the near future and whose population is predominantly Muslim.
The Pope presented the president with a bronze of the Madonna and Child as a gift for the Irish people.
In return, McAleese gave the Pope a chalice and a book commemorating his visit to Ireland in 1979.
Pope speaks of his love for the Irish (Independent Catholic News)
Pope Stresses Ireland's Christian History (Associated Press/Newsday)
Pope sees major Irish role in European future (Catholic World News)
European Christians risk sliding into apostasy, pope tells academies (Catholic News Service)
Without Christianity, Europe suffers an identity crisis, Pope says (Catholic World News)
Life of Pope John Paul II extolled by theologian (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
Pope Claims Contradiction Implied in Disdain for Politics (Zenit)
John Paul II to Beatify Royal Chaplain of Spain (Zenit)
Pope Puts Five More People on Road to Sainthood (Reuters)
Pope beatifies five in Vatican ceremony (AFP)
Pope puts five more on road to sainthood (Reuters)
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10 Nov 2003