German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also the current president of the EU, said this week she understands Pope Benedict XVI’s criticisms of the European Union for not mentioning God or its Christian roots in the Declaration of Berlin—which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European Union—and she said Europe should recognize in some way its Judeo-Christian heritage even if through a document separate from the European Constitution.

During her remarks prior to signing the Declaration of Berlin, Merkel spoke “for herself” and praised the Judeo-Christian values that sustain the EU, despite their not being mentioned in the Declaration of Berlin due to opposition by some member states, led by France.  They were also excluded from the EU Constitution, even though some countries such as Poland insisted otherwise.

During a press conference at the conclusion of the summit, Merkel explained that she herself had spoken with Pope Benedict XVI, as she did with John Paul II, about mentioning the Christian roots of the EU in the EU Constitution.  “I know this is something that many people in Europe want.  Nevertheless, there are secular traditions that reject the mention of faith in official documents of the State,” she said.

Merkel said she was convinced that the question of Christian tradition would return to the forefront during the debate to pass the EU Constitution, but she said she was “realistic, that is, not very optimistic,” about the possibility that it would be mentioned in the final document.  “We have to accept debating this issue, it is normal, and in the dialogue between cultures and religions at the world level, Europeans should be able to express their common roots,” she added.

“We must accept that we are marked by this Judeo Christian past.  The question is knowing in what kind of document this can be inscribed.  The discussion will continue, and I understand very much the position of the Catholic Church, but we must admit also that in Europe there is a clear separation between the political and the religious sphere,” she said in conclusion.