Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Merkel has 'intense' talks with Pope Benedict XVI
28 August 2006
CASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY - German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended Monday a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the pontiff's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo near Rome. It was Merkel's first meeting with the German-born pope since she became chancellor. "I had very intense talks with the Holy Father," Merkel said after the 45 minute private audience. The two discussed the Middle East, Iran and Europe, the chancellor said.

Merkel expressed support for the inclusion of a reference to Christianity in the planned EU constitution (see below for expanded information) and said she is looking forward to the pope's September visit to his homeland. The chancellor said her party would always maintain good relations with the pontiff and she gave Benedict, a music fan, an old Mozart score.

Merkel grew up as a Protestant pastor's daughter in the former East Germany. Benedict, the former Joseph Ratzinger, was born in Bavaria and will be visiting there September 9-14.


EU needs constitution with Christian reference, Merkel says
29.08.2006 - 09:46
CET By Lucia Kubosova

German chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested Europe needs a constitution that makes reference to Christianity and God following her audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday (29 August).The German leader, the daughter of a protestant pastor, visited the Pope at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, to discuss several issues in European and international politics, ahead of the Pope's September visit to Germany, his homeland.

"We spoke about freedom of religion," Ms Merkel told journalists following the 45-minute meeting.She added "I underlined my opinion that we need a European identity in the form of a constitutional treaty and I think it should be connected to Christianity and God, as Christianity has forged Europe in a decisive way," according to press reports.

The Christian Democrat leader has previously spoken out in favour of reopening the debate on religion in the constitution as the EU considers how to tackle the deadlock after the treaty's rejection by French and Dutch voters last year.

Germany has been assigned by EU member states to come up with some kind of solution to the constitutional crisis during its presidency of the union in the first six months of 2007. Like Mrs Merkel, some leading figures of the European People's Party - the federalist centre-right pan-European group - have pointed out that a possible re-drafted treaty should include clear links to Europe's Christian heritage.

During earlier negotiations on the content of the new EU charter, Spain, Italy and Poland were among the strongest supporters of a reference to God in the treaty.But its opponents argued it could prove controversial in view of Turkey's potential membership of the EU as well as due to the strict separation of state and church in some countries, such as France.

Currently, the preamble refers to Europe's religious heritage only in general terms."Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, the values of which, still present in its heritage, have embedded within the life of society the central role of the human person and his or her inviolable and inalienable rights, and respect for law," it states.

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