2-February-2011 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Bishops Decry EU Failure to Defend Christians

Lament Political Bickering as Lives Are Lost

BRUSSELS, Belgium, FEB. 2, 2011 ...- The bishops of Europe are lamenting the failure of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union to agree on a statement condemning religious persecution and anti-Christian violence.

On Monday, 27 foreign ministers met to discuss stepping up measures to promote religious liberty in the wake of similar actions by other European institutions.

On Jan. 20, the European Parliament adopted a 19-point resolution on "The Situation of Christians in the Context of Freedom of Religion," and on Jan. 24, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a 17-point recommendation on "Violence Against Christians in the Middle East."

Most notable among the recent attacks against Christians mentioned by the European Parliament are a Dec. 30 wave of 11 bomb attacks that killed two Christians and wounded 16 in Iraq; an Oct. 31 massacre at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, which that day claimed more than 50 lives; and a Jan. 1 bombing at the Coptic Church of the Saints in Alexandria, Egypt, which claimed the lives of 21 people.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's recommendation further mentioned a Christmas episode in Cyprus, and underlined the need to address the problems that have led to the disappearance of Christians from that region.

In Monday's meeting, the Council of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council members planned to debate the impact of the anti-Christian attacks detailed in the Parliament's resolution.

Excess of secularism

However, the foreign ministers failed to reach an agreement "due to internal wrangling" over "a specific reference to Christians being included as victims of religious persecution," reported the Commission of the Episcopates of the European Community (COMECE).

In particular, Catherine Ashton, E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, refused to use the word "Christian" in the statement, noting that it was not politically correct to name a specific religious group as the victim of attacks.

Franco Frattini, Italian foreign minister, reported after Monday's meeting: "This position is an excess of secularism, which is damaging the credibility of Europe. The final text didn't include any mention of Christians, as if we were talking of something else, so I asked the text to be withdrawn."

The bishops lamented, "This diplomatic wavering is all the more incomprehensible as innocent lives are being cut short in atrocious attacks against Christians and other minorities all over the world."

They noted as well that "public opinion in Europe has already become aware of the particular situation of Christians in the Middle East after the recent attacks on churches in Iraq and Egypt."

A COMECE statement reported that the prelates "very much regret" the failure of the European ministers to sign a joint declaration.

"The commitment of the European Union to stand for fundamental rights and religious freedom is clearly stated in the E.U. Treaty and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and has been reaffirmed in many declarations," they asserted. "Therefore we now expect that the European Union will take concrete measures to turn these general principles into significant political action."

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