Greek church leader denounces absence of Christianity from EU charter

The leader of Greece's Orthodox Church on Friday accused European Union leaders of betraying the continent's history by omitting a reference to Europe's Christian traditions in the new EU constitution.

"European leaders, in their majority, behaved as if Europe has no history, as if it was brought into being just yesterday by commissioners, maybe in some conference room of the European Commission," said Archbishop Christodoulos.

"The concealment of Christianity, Greek culture and Roman rule of law as the foundations of European civilization does not express historic reality," the cleric said in a speech to the spokesmen of European Catholic bishops from the EU's 25 countries convening in Athens.

The local orthodox church is very influential among Greeks, one of the most devout nations in Europe. The constitution has to be ratified by each member state, and Greek officials have said that this will be by a parliamentary vote rather than by a referendum.

On Saturday, the Vatican again expressed regret that the EU's future constitution, the text of which was accepted by EU leaders last week in Brussels, does not mention the bloc's Christian heritage.