Sunday, May 27, 2007

Papal Blessings?

A proposed upcoming visit is seen as recognition, if not an approval, of the current pope's politics. This issue is widely discussed in Europe.

When President of the European Parliament Mr. Pöttering went to Rome for the 50-Year Jubilee of Europe he found time to visit Montecassino south of Rome.

He celebrated Mass in the spirit of Benedict of Nursia, the patron saint of Europe.

Afterwards the Pope received him in audience. At this occasion he extended an invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to address the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

This received a somewhat critical response among the non-catholic members of the Parliament.
Separation of Religion and Politics Recently Ms. Sophie in 't Veld wrote a letter - in her capacity as the Chair of the European Parliament Working Group on Separation of Religion and Politics - to the President protesting the invitation extended by him to the Roman Catholic Pope to address the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Last week the issue was brought up again in connection with a meeting in the Berlaymont building on the initiative of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Should the Pope address the parliament in Strasbourg?

A proposed upcoming visit is seen as recognition, if not an approval, of the current pope's politics. This issue is widely discussed in Europe.

Building A Europe On Human Dignity

Last week the issue was brought up again in connection with a meeting in the Berlaymont building on the initiative of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

Together with German Chancellor and European Council President Angela Merkel and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, President Barroso co-hosted discussions with members of the three monotheistic religions in Europe.

The topic chosen for this year’s discussion was: "Building a Europe based on human dignity".

Participants were very high-ranking representatives from the Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Catholic and Orthodox Churches as well as Jewish and Muslim Communities.

Interesting Catholic Representation

There is no doubt that the representatives were chosen carefully. Nevertheless one third were German or Austrian and amongst these the representatives from the Catholic Church were especially peculiar.

Two out of three were German Cardinals, one of which (The Bishop from Mainz) is well known for his former theological disputes with the current Pope, not least about the possibility of ordination of women as deacons.

It is of course not possible to get confirmation on the how the selection was made.

But it is intriguing that the Pope who is heavily enmeshed in a cultural fight with both secularised Europe and the idea of an accommodating church chose to send a controversial Cardinal. Perhaps he did not consider it that important.

Pope in Strasbourg

We may however be sure that the Pope already has accepted the invitation to speak in Strasbourg.

And that he presumably will expound his own views on the European issues ahead.

Merkel's Dilemma

By the way: At the concluding press conference Angela Merkel once more reiterated that she did personally wish for a referral to God in the new European mini-constitution currently being reviewed, but that there was unfortunately no agreement to be found in the European Community in this matter.

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