Pope urges values of freedom, dignity and family be considered in drafting European constitution

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II said Saturday that values recognizing freedom of religion, the dignity of human life and the "central role" of marriage should be considered as the European Union drafts its constitution.

The pontiff's comments were contained in a message sent to a conference on the EU constitution which is under way at the Catholic University in Rome.

John Paul cautioned that he wasn't trying to interfere in the process of enlarging the EU and drafting its future charter. But he said he couldn't stand silent at such an important time.

"Such a new European order, to be truly appropriate in the promotion of the common good, must recognize and protect those values that constitute the most precious patrimony of European humanism," he said in the message.

Those values, he said, include:

"The dignity of the person; the sacred character of human life; the central role of the family founded on marriage; the importance of instruction; freedom of thought, speech and profession of one's own beliefs and religion; legal protections for individuals and groups; collaboration of all for the common good; work as a personal and social benefit; political power used as service and subject to law and reason and limited in rights by the people."

The European Union opened a constitutional convention in February. The process is designed to drastically overhaul how the EU operates ahead of the club's largest expansion ever: 10 more members in the 15-member club by 2004.