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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 May, 2003, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Vatican irked by Christian omission
St Peter's Square
The Vatican wants a Christian EU

The Vatican has expressed its anger at the failure of those drafting a new constitution for the European Union to include a reference to Christianity in their working version of the document.

While the current draft speaks of Europe's "spiritual impulse" and refers to the continent's Greco-Roman and Enlightenment heritage, it makes no mention of the continent's predominant religion.

In an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who heads the EU body that drew up the draft presented this week, said he could not mention Christianity for fear of offending other religions.

This omission would be very important and serious, even from a purely historical point of view
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls
But the Vatican spokesman said he wanted the next version to include a specific mention of Christianity.

"Members of this Convention have already suggested the inclusion of this element, this explicit mention of Christianity in future versions of the draft," Joaquin Navarro-Valls told Vatican Radio.

"This omission would be very important and serious, even from a purely historical point of view."

Prodi backing

Mr Giscard d'Estaing said that, despite the omission, it was "obvious that Europe's spiritual impulse is that of Christianity".

"We could not mention it more explicitly because, otherwise, we should have mentioned the other religious traditions present in the continent, from the Jewish one to the Muslim one," he said in an interview published on Saturday in the Milan daily.

There would have been no general consensus on mentioning other religions either, he added.

The Vatican's calls have however been endorsed by Romano Prodi, the EU Commission president and a Catholic politician who attacked the draft Constitution in its entirety on Wednesday, saying it lacked vision and ambition.

This was the second time in a week that the Vatican had called for the Christian character of Europe to be upheld.

Last week, Vatican officials expressed doubts over Turkey's bid to join the EU, saying that there should be geographical limits to the Union and that Turkey is a deeply Muslim country with a fast-growing population.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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