‘UK CATHOLICS have been presented with the chance to vote on whether to accept an EU constitution which fails to mention Christianity after Tony Blair’s spectacular U-turn this week, writes JONATHAN LUXMOORE.
After previous blanket denials, the Prime Minister confirmed that a referendum will be held in the UK over whether to accept the draft constitution, giving thousands of churchgoers the chance to cast their own verdict on an issue which has sparked a debate among Christians across the continent.
Church leaders have welcomed clauses recognising religious rights in the draft Constitutional Treaty, which was published in June 2003, but have severely criticised a preamble provision which recalls Europe’s “cultural, religious and humanist heritage” but which pointedly fails to mention Christianity.
A group of European parliamentarians has already collected 750,000 signatures for a petition demanding an acknowledgement of Europe’s Christian heritage in the constitution. And the group has confidently predicted that 55 million Europeans would back the amendment of the draft constitution if they were given the chance to vote on it.
“This is the number of people represented by the groups and organisations who are supporting a proper recognition of Christianity,” explained Elizabeth Montfort, a French MEP. With the debate now heating up, their voices simply cannot be ignored.”
In addition, Catholic bishops from Poland, the largest of 10 new member-countries joining the EU on May 1, warned that the current text had also caused “particular misgivings” in Eastern Europe because of the region’s “historical experiences”.
And they vowed to demand that the Treaty show the same respect for religious convictions as Poland’s own 1997 constitution.
“The Church, confessing its religious truth, demands not only tolerance but also respect for its convictions, just as it recognises these rights for others,” the bishops said in a declaration.’
So the Vatican has started early. With most Roman Catholic Poland weighing in on the side of the Pope, the weight as far as the Vatican is concerned is evening up. It is also evening up as far as Vatican intrigue is concerned!