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Pope/Vatican comment on series of major issues

The media is carrying many reports on comments made by the Pope and the Vatican yesterday on a series of significant issues including: World Refugee Day, the European Constitution and rediscovering the Christian roots of our culture, and concerns over the political direction being taken in Spain.

In an address in St Peter's Square in recognition of World Refugee Day, John Paul II appealed for greater commitment by the Church and the international community to refugees.

Zenit reports that according to statistics released on Thursday by the UNHCR, the number of refugees and others of concern to the UN agency fell by 18% to 17.1 million in 2003, the lowest total in at least a decade."

In his address to thousands of people in St Peter's Square, Pope John Paul recalled the theme of this year's World Day, "A Place to Call Home: To Rebuild Lives in Security and Dignity," and said that every person needs "a safe environment in which to live."

There have been a number of comments in recent days from Vatican spokespeople and from the Pope himself on the news that a draft constitution for the European Union is almost ready. While expressing appreciation that the new document guarantees religious freedom there is disappointment that the new document does not sufficiently acknowledge the Christian heritage and roots of reports "the Pope, along with representatives of other European churches and several governments, campaigned strongly for a mention of Europe's Christian roots in the preamble of the European Constitution."

"Others, with France and Belgium at the forefront, fought to keep the text free from any specific religious reference."

"The preamble to the Constitution says that the EU draws its 'inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, democracy, equality, freedom and the rule of law'."

His Holiness would seem to have been even more blunt in his comments to the newly-elected President of Spain who visited the Vatican yesterday. CWN reports him saying to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero "Recently, while receiving your new ambassador, I had the occasion to address some aspects of Spanish society. I thank you for your gracious visit, while reaffirming what I said on this occasion," the Holy Father said in Spanish as he met with the delegation in the library of the apostolic palace.

The news agency says, "the Pope, receiving the credentials of Jorge Dezcallar of Mazarredo on June 18, had recalled the importance of the value of marriage, family, and life in a Spain strongly marked by its Catholic inheritance. During his recent election campaign, [the new Spanish PM] had stated his support for homosexual marriage, for abortion in the first 12 weeks or pregnancy, to the end of religious studies in public schools, and to more liberal policies on assisted reproduction."

Zenit – John Paul II Calls for Deeper Commitment to Refugees
EU Observer – Vatican regrets absence of Christianity in EU Constitution
CWN – Pope welcomes, chides Spanish Prime Minister

22 Jun 2004