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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 10:40 GMT
Buttiglione plans Christian lobby
Rocco Buttiglione
Mr Buttiglione says the meaning of his comments was "falsified"
Rocco Buttiglione, the Italian politician who was forced to withdraw as a candidate for EU commissioner, has told the BBC he plans to set up a lobby group for Christians in Europe.

Mr Buttiglione's nomination as EU justice commissioner came under fire after he expressed views condemning homosexuality and abortion, with opponents accusing him of bringing prejudices into the political process.

But he told BBC World Service's Reporting Religion programme that he would be forming a Christian lobby group dedicated to bringing Christian principles into the European decision-making process.

And he claimed he had "enormous" support for this proposal.

"When I resigned, my political career was over, and I was alone," he said.

"All of a sudden, I found an enormous number of people sending me e-mails, calling me by phone, clapping their hands when they met me in the street.

"Some friends organised a moment to meet me in Milan - and there were thousands and thousands of people."

'Not first-class citizens'

Mr Buttiglione also claimed he had support from many European countries, naming the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany and Latvia.

"It is quite apparent that a free Europe is one in which homosexuals can do what they want - but also we are free to say that what they do is wrong," he argued.

Franco Frattini
Franco Frattini was named to replace Buttiglione as Italy's commissioner
"A Europe in which one of these two pillars is missing is no longer a free Europe."

At the time of the controversy over Mr Buttiglione's nomination, fellow EU commissioner-designate Peter Mandelson said Mr Buttiglione was "unwise" to express his views on homosexuals at an EU committee hearing.

Mr Buttiglione himself later seemed to apologise for his comments, saying, "I deeply regret the difficulties and problems that have arisen."

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi finally withdrew him, naming foreign minister Franco Frattini to replace him.

Mr Buttiglione told the BBC he felt that Christians were being "discriminated against for having the moral position of the Church," and that they were "no more first-class citizens in Europe."

But he also said that his lobby would not present the case only for Christians.

"We need a liberal lobby, liberal not in the modern sense but in the traditional sense, a lobby for the freedom of conscience and the freedom of speech," he said.

He said he felt his views had been "falsified" by other people.

"Many people believe that I introduced the concept of sin into political debate - I didn't," he said.

"I've always said that I may think homosexuality is a sin, but it has no impact on politics because I stand in politics for non-discrimination."

Profile: Rocco Buttiglione
21 Oct 04 |  Europe
EU row candidate stands down
30 Oct 04 |  Europe
Buttiglione pulled from EU team
30 Oct 04 |  Europe

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