Pope Asks EU to Cite Christian Heritage

Pope John Paul II renewed his appeal Sunday for the future European constitution to cite the continent's Christian heritage, saying such recognition would in no way diminish the secular nature of the European Union.

"On the contrary, it will help guard the continent against the double risk of ideological secularism, on the one hand, and sectarian integralism on the other," the pope said in his weekly appearance in St. Peter's Square.

His appeal came a week after a panel drafting the constitution issued its first drafts of articles on the EU's values, objectives and powers and on the fundamental rights of EU nationals.

Absent from the drafts is any mention of God an issue that has already led to a contentious debate whether the EU's first constitution should mention God by name and define European values as including "those who believe in God as the source of truth, justice, good and beauty."

The question of God and religion is highly contentious in Europe, where nations have very different historical church-state relations.

In his comments Sunday, the pope cited two ninth century saints, Ciril and Metod, who he said infused European culture with Christian and Byzantine influence.

"Precisely for this it has been asked that the future European Union constitutional treaty not leave out this common patrimony of the East and the West," he said. "Such a reference would not take away from the just secularness of the political structures."

The European Convention is expected to begin adding amendments and other changes to the drafts presented last week.