Benedict's meeting with German chancellor resurrects EU controversy

A call by German Vice-Chancellor Angela Merkel during her meeting this week with Pope Benedict for "Christian values" to be placed at the heart of the new European Constitution has sparked protests by Euro-parliamentarians.

According to Zenit, she said one key topic during the 40-minute private audience with the Pope was the development of the present process of European integration and of the continent's identity.

"We spoke about the role of Europe and I emphasised the need for a constitution and that it should refer to our Christian values," Ms Merkel told reporters.

"I believe this treaty should be linked to Christianity and God because Christianity was decisive in the formation of Europe."

At present, the draft of the Constitutional Treaty, which made no reference to Europe's Christian roots, is at a standstill after it was rejected in referendums held in France and Holland last year.

Moscow News reports that Merkel will use Germany's term in the rotating EU presidency next year to re-launch the drafting of a new European constitution.

However, secular European MPs fear that a compromise constitutional text agreed by EU leaders in June 2004 may be put at risk.

"The Chancellor's statement brings into question once more a compromise that was difficult enough to achieve. It is not helpful to reopen a discussion that has been closed," German Euro-parliamentarian said yesterday.

"A new discussion about incorporating Christian values would be an unnecessary burden on the talks that will soon begin on the best way of proceeding with the constitution."

Eight national governments pushed hard for a direct mention for a Christian God during the original EU constitution talks in 2004.

But Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia had and Ireland remained in the minority after opposition was led by the UK, France and Sweden.

Germany's change of government and new support for a Christian constitution will reopen an unwelcome debate for many of Europe's capitals.

The meeting between Benedict XVI and the German Vice-Chancellor held in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo came two weeks before the Pope's trip to his native Bavaria in September.

Merkel resurrects 'holy' EU constitution row(TheParliament.com, 29/8/06)
Pope Has "Intense" Meeting With German Chancellor (Zenit, 29/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
European Union

Vatican cool toward "myopic" Euro constitution (CathNews, 23/11/04)
Pope/Vatican comment on series of major issues (CathNews, 22/6/04)
Pope's response to European Synod: "Ecclesia in Europa" (CathNews, 30/6/03)
The push for inclusion of Christianity in European Constitution (CathNews, 8/1/03)

30 Aug 2006