When the Church acts, it is to defend life, the family and religious freedom
The chairman of the Italian Bishops’ Conference addresses the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences at a meeting celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Refusing to acknowledge the continent’s Christian roots is not tolerance, but a form of rejection of religions and a desire to relegate them to the private sphere.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The defence of life, the protection of the family, the recognition of parents’ rights to educate their children and the promotion of religious freedom as more than an individual right are concrete expressions of what the Catholic Church considers its fundamental interest in the ethical dignity of people as well as its own, and which are the motives behind its actions around the world, especially in Europe, a continent that still wants to play a role in the world.

Fifty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome that laid down the foundations of today’s European Union, Mgr Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), outlined the “Values and Perspectives for Tomorrow’s Europe” in his address to a meeting that the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) organised as part of the celebrations of the Treaty’s 50th anniversary.

“Europe,” Mgr Bagnasco said, “must transcend its original economic raison d’être to broaden its range to include a wider political and institutional role.” From this perspective and “on the basis of cultural and spiritual unity,” the search for “shared values” becomes necessary, one that is “nourished by dialogue and respect for [its various] identities”.

“For the process of integration to be truly fruitful Europe must recognise its Christian roots, providing space for the ethical principles that constitute an integral and fundamental part of its spiritual heritage from which Europe’s modernity draws its values,” he said.

“Understanding one’s Christian roots does not mean denying the need for a fair and healthy [degree of] secularism in Europe’s institutions,” one that is “far from ideological secularism,” he said. “It does however mean accepting an historical fact that no one can seriously challenge, namely that Christianity is in a radical and determining way part of the foundations of the European identity.”

“Far from being a sign of tolerance, because true tolerance is based on religious freedom and not rejection of religions,” the refusal to recognise these roots, “expresses a tendency to reduce religion to an exclusively private and subjective fact, elevating ethical relativism to the status of dogma,” as the then Card Joseph Ratzinger said during a conference on the promotion of life and the family in Europe” held in Subiaco (Italy) on April 1, 2005.

“In sharing a common commitment to essential values like justice, peace, freedom, solidarity, environmental protection,” the Churches of Europe “reaffirm that these values cannot be truly realised without taking into account people’s transcendental nature and respecting the norms that are inherent in human nature. The promotion and protection of human dignity and its ethical centrality are the personal interest and exclusive goal of every action the Catholic Church undertakes. Not only are they the natural place for dialogue and help, but their ethical centrality become explicit in principles that are non negotiable because they are the expression and the content of that dignity (Benedict XVI, Address to participants to the Congress organised by the European People's Party on March, 2006).”

“Among these the following clearly emerge today:

-        the protection of life at all stages, from conception until natural death, thus resisting all threats and forms of aggression that are sometimes wrapped up in misguided notions of scientific and social progress;

-        the recognition and promotion of the family as a fundamental and natural union between a man and a woman open to children, and its defence from the many relativistic attempts to make it the legal equivalent of other forms of union;

-        the protection of the right of parents to educate their children;

-        the fundamental right to religious freedom at both the individual but also and especially the institutional levels.”

“These are principles common to humanity as a whole. As the Holy Father Benedict XVI put it: ‘The Church’s action in promoting them is therefore not confessional in character, but is addressed to all people, prescinding from any religious affiliation they may have. On the contrary, such action is all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, because this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, a grave wound inflicted onto justice itself.’”  (Benedict XVI, Address to participants to the Congress organised by the European People's Party on March, 2006).