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Pope stresses Christian values of enlarged EU

Welcoming 10 new member states to the European Union yesterday, Pope John Paul II again underlined the Christian values which he sees as the basis of the bloc's unity.

"Ten countries which through their culture and traditions were and felt European are now part of this union of states," the pope said.

His remarks were likely to be interpreted as a new plea for Christianity to be explicitly mentioned in the EU's constitution, and as aimed at opposing EU entry by majority Muslim Turkey.

"The unity of the European people, if it is to last, cannot only be economic and political," the pope said in his weekly address.

"The soul of Europe remains unified today thanks to humane and Christian values that they have in common.

"The history of the formation of European nations is tied to evangelising and despite crises of spirituality the continent suffers to this day, its identity would be incomprehensible without Christianity," the pontiff said.

The Holy Father said Europe "must keep and rediscover its Christian roots to overcome the great challenges of the third millenium: peace, dialogue between cultures and religions."

The pope, who will celebrate his 84th birthday on May 18, appeared tired after a ceremony lasting almost two hours during which he ordained 26 new priests, among them a fellow Pole.

He had difficulty speaking and appeared to show irritation at the level of noise in St Peter's square which prevented him from concentrating. But he read the whole of his address.

The Pope and mainly Catholic countries such as Ireland, Italy and Poland have been pushing for the preamble to the EU constitution to refer explicitly to a Christian God as being the fount of European civilisation.

But that has run into opposition from avowedly secular EU members such as Belgium and France, amid fears that such a mention could marginalise Europeans of other faiths or atheists.

"It is unlikely in my view that there will be a reference to God in the constitution, but I think the Christian traditions, the Christian values will be recognised," Irish Prime Minister and current EU chairman Bertie Ahern said on Saturday.

Ten nations in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean -- the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia -- took their places in the European Union over the weekend.

Pope stresses Christian values of enlarged EU (Agence France Presse/EU Business 2/5/04)

Riots dampen welcome for new EU members (The Observer 2/5/04)
Malta savours EU membership (EU Business 1/5/04)
Pope hails entry of 10 new EU nations (Associated Press/Toronto Globe and Mail 2/5/04)
Pope: New EU needs Christianity (CNN/Reuters 2/5/04)
Bishops' Conference statement on EU (Independent Catholic News 30/4/04)
European Union: UISG: Increased Membership Positive Step toward Greater Solidarity with Eastern European Consecrated Life (Vidimus Dominum 30/4/04)
European Union: Widening Membership should not Stop De-europization of Church (Vidimus Dominum 30/4/04)
Pope Warns of Family Rifts Between Generations (Zenit 30/4/04)
Personal Holiness Must Underlie a Bishop's Authority, Says Pope (Zenit 30/4/04)
Church leaders welcome EU enlargement but caution against new divisions (Ecumenical News International 30/4/04)
Pope appeals for peace in eastern Indonesia (Radio Australia 2/5/04)

3 May 2004