Pope Wants Church to Contribute to EU Constitution

CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy (Reuters) - Pope John Paul II, who wants a reference to Christianity in the future EU constitution, returned to the theme Sunday, saying Christianity was "the religion of Europeans."

The draft constitution, unveiled last month, contains no mention of Christianity despite heavy lobbying from the pope and Christian Democrat parties.

Days after Roman Catholic Italy, which holds the rotating EU presidency, took over responsibility for the draft text, the pope said the Church felt it had to make a contribution to work on the constitution.

"Europe was widely and deeply penetrated by Christianity... the new Europe should be helped to build itself revitalizing the Christian roots that gave birth to it," the pope, at his summer retreat outside of Rome, said in his weekly address.

"The influence of Christianity has remained important in modern times despite the strong and widespread phenomenon of secularization," he said.

EU leaders are due to launch final discussions on the text in Rome in October and Italy hopes to have a final version thrashed out by the end of the year.

Italy, along with Spain, Portugal and Poland, have demanded a specific reference to Christianity in the constitution, which aims to shake up institutions widely criticized as inefficient.