Ecumenical Patriarch urges EU to refer to Christian heritage in new constitution

Posted: Friday, October 24, 2003

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, urged European Union leaders to make reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the bloc's constitution.

Bartholomew made the comments at an Oct. 16 forum in Istanbul that included EU lawmakers. He said Europe should not forget its spiritual roots in the new document, which lawmakers are currently drafting.

''The proposed constitution should contain an express reference to the Christian heritage of Europe, through which the principles and values of the biblical and Greco-Roman tradition have been perpetuated and which ... constitute the foundation on which the modern European structure has been built,'' Bartholomew said.

Bartholomew criticized modern secular political thought that excludes religion. He said failure to guarantee the institutional role of religion in society ''constitutes a deficit within the context of the democratic political system today.''

Bartholomew, an ethnic Greek who is a Turkish citizen, directly oversees several Greek Orthodox churches around the world, including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The patriarch is also considered the spiritual leader of 14 autonomous Orthodox churches, including those of Russia, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia.

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