During the opening of the Symposium on the Social Doctrine of the Church, organized by the Spanish Bishops Conference, Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, recalled the Christian roots of the European continent and warned about the suicidal nature of an exaggerated “multiculturalism.”

The Cardinal inaugurated the symposium, which has as its theme, “Human Rights—a Permanent Defense,” marking the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Pacem in Terris by John XXIII.

During the meeting, which concluded on Saturday, Cardinal Poupard said the encyclical was a “true spiritual testament” of Blessed John XXIII and he lamented that since the promulgation of the encyclical and despite the changes the world has seen in the last 40 years, “only one thing seems to have stayed the same since then: the permanent threat to peace.”

“The search for a cultural identity which is built in harmony becomes, therefore, a priority for there to be peace,” said the Cardinal.  “When the Holy Father tirelessly reminds us of the Christian roots of Europe, and mustering up strength in his frailty, he mobilized the Holy See to ensure that the future EU constitution include a reference to them, it is evident that he is not seeking special privileges for the Catholic Church.”

The Holy See, which has been a part of the building of Europe in the past and the present, “through its interventions in favor of all Europeans, seeks to safeguard [Europe’s] own historical identity,” he added.

“To not mention Christianity in the future EU Constitution,” warned the French Cardinal, “is a grave deficiency.”

“If nationalism and xenophobia leads Europe to suffocate to death, extreme multiculturalism is equivalent to automatic suicide.  Therefore it is very important that the future Constitution include an explicit reference to these roots,” said the Cardinal, amidst the applause of his listeners.

Is the Church an NGO?

Cardinal Poupard referred to an article in the current draft of the EU Constitution which grants equal status to churches and non-governmental organizations as “unfortunate,” saying the article “poses many juridical problems” since there is no distinction made between philosophical organizations, sects, alternative religious movements and mainline churches in Europe. 

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The Cardinal concluded by appealing to the common historical memory.  “A people without memory are a people without hope.  I do not believe in a future Europe that abandons Christ in order to continue on its way alone.  Our memory is the hope of the future.”