Vatican, May. 30 ( – The Vatican has expressed “surprise” and disappointment that the draft version of a new constitution for the European Union does not acknowledge the role of religion in forming the culture of the continent.  An official statement released by the Vatican press office on May 30 noted “with satisfaction” that the draft constitution “envisioned a constant dialogue which churches and with religious communities.” However, the statement pointed out that in the preamble, in which the draft mentions the elements of the common European heritage, “the absence of an explicit mention of Christianity was noted with surprise.”  On May 25, before the unveiling of the draft constitution, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican’s chief foreign-policy official, had said that a general reference to the “spiritual patrimony” of the European people would be “absolutely insufficient.”  The official statement offered by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls called for amendments to the preamble of the draft, “our of respect for historical truth and for a more balanced text.”

Archbishop Tauran, interviewed by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, charged that the drafting committee had “obscured” the history of Europe and shown a “clear imbalance” in its listing of the major factors contributing to the European culture. The acknowledgement of Enlightenment thought, without any reference to Christianity, was clear evidence, he said, of “an ideological operation, which shows, in the editors, an imperious temptation to rewrite history.”  The current draft version of the constitution will be formally presented to the member-states for discussion in June. An inter-governmental conference in October is scheduled to evaluate the text and offer amendments to the draft, which was prepared by a working committee under the direction of former French President Valery Giscaird d’Estaing.  Cardinal Roberto Tucci, in remarks broadcast by Vatican Radio, voiced his regret that the editorial committee “did not have the courage to recognize the historic fact” that Christianity had shaped European life for centuries.

Pope John Paul is likely to provide a full explanation of how Christianity has shaped the history of Europe, when he publishes his apostolic exhortation summarizing the work of the European Synod. That document is scheduled for release on June 28.

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