Europe must be guided by Christian values that shaped it


WorldView:Twenty seven heads of state, including President Mary McAleese, met in Rome on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Undoubtedly, the EU and UN have been great catalysts for peace and prosperity, but new challenges and uncertainties face our world, writes Enzo Farinella

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the troubles in Darfur, Congo, north Uganda and in other parts of Africa, the lack of peace in the Middle East, the race towards nuclear arms in Iran and North Korea, the tragic situation in Chechnya, the dissatisfaction existing in various regions with millions of people driven from their homes and many young people left orphans, are evident signs that the globalisation question must be revisited.

Closer to us, the French and Dutch "No" to the European constitution, and the laboured agreement on the 2007-2013 budget, throw shadows on the successes obtained by the EU, such as the single market, monetary union and the enlargement to 27 states.

Economic and commercial interests don't seem enough upon which to build the EU and the world of the UN. Authentic values, based upon the universal moral law, and therefore upon an authentic spiritual, ethical and cultural unity, are necessary. Our "cultured Europe" should imply the deep sense of belonging to an intellectual and spiritual common tradition, of sharing a common source of respect for values and for defending and spreading the ideals of freedom and democracy.

Continental history and our culture find their roots in Christianity, which operated a true revolution and was a great factor in civilisation. Christianity inspired moral and civic autonomy, forms of welcoming, solidarity and human promotion, teaching openness to all people. Christian faith shaped the continent's culture, becoming an essential part of its history. Christendom, as a doctrine and system, is the foundation rock of our civilisation for the past 2,000 years. Isaiah said: "Think on the rock from which you were hewn."

From these roots the values of the person and of the community flourished. These individual and communitarian values gave true meaning to equality among all human beings, to freedom, justice, sharing, solidarity and peace as common anthropological, cultural and ethical heritage.

In them pluralism finds nobility, establishing a common path towards social, civic, political, spiritual and cultural aims.

The hope, then, of building a better Europe and a more just world should recognise the contribution that Christianity brought to the entire world. And Christians have the duty to offer the richness of their faith and of their hope for the construction of Europe and the wider world.

The EU constitution proclaims these Christian values. The EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the member states in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

We Europeans are called to leave definitively behind us the historical rivalries that made of our continent the theatre of devastating wars and of crimes such as the Holocaust.

Integration is a duty. We must progress, otherwise it would be a "mockery of history", as Carlo Azelio Ciampi, when president of the Italian Republic, said.

Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, said that if we don't succeed in giving a soul and spirituality to Europe in the next 10 years, we will lose the match.

The then president of Ireland Patrick Hillery, on the eve of a state visit to Italy, said we must fight in order to give a more humane face to the new EU, a soul, according to our tradition and our heritage.

The spiritual values, the culture, the wisdom are what unify EU countries. Trade is a good thing. Competing in order to earn more is okay. However, we need also values that must guide the totality of the EU.

European Commission president José Manuel Barroso is optimistic: Europe has faced terrorism, social uncertainty, natural catastrophes. Among its successes are the renewal of the Lisbon strategy; the revision of the Stability and Growth Pact to reinforce the credibility of the union's economic governance; the launching of initiatives and provisions for a cleaner environment; better security; the promotion of European values in the world through interventions of co-operation in favour of Africa and of the people struck by the tsunami; reinforcing dialogue with the US; and opening a dialogue with Turkey and Croatia.

A return to the cultural European Christian roots would encourage us to carry on with the project of the individual, the community, the State, the EU and the world.

Building the common European house and the world of the United Nations as a place not only of economic primacy, but above all as primacy of values and sharing, is the challenge which faces us all.

Meanwhile, the union shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.

It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.

It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe's cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.

Enzo Farinella is correspondent of ANSA (Italian News Agency) from