Merkel to back EU's Christian heritage

Europe’s “Christian values” should be enshrined in a new version of the European Union Constitution, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared last week after meeting the pope.

In remarks that will reopen the debate on religion in the EU, Merkel threw her weight behind Pope Benedict’s campaign to recognise Europe’s Christian heritage. “We spoke about freedom of religion,’’ she said after talks at the pope’s summer residence near Rome. “We spoke about the role of Europe and I emphasised the need for a Constitution and that it should refer to our Christian values.’‘

Merkel will take charge of efforts to revive the Constitution when Germany assumes the EU’s rotating presidency next January.
Any attempt to mention Christianity—or simply God—in the text will be met by stiff resistance from secular France; from Britain, which treads carefully in this area; and from northern Protestant countries such as Sweden and Denmark. During the tortuous negotiations on the Constitution in 2004 there were concerns that any religious reference could upset Europe’s Muslims and Jews.

But Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor, is determined to reopen the debate when she tries to revive the Constitution, a controversial move in itself because many EU leaders want a slimmed-down document after last year’s no votes.

The chancellor is leader of the strongly Catholic Christlich Demokratischen Union (CDU) party, whose most senior figure in Brussels is determined to include a reference to God in the new Constitution.—Â

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