BY TRACY-JO SMITH
NEW LABOUR and the Conservatives have both made clear that they do not want references to the historical role of Christianity inserted in the European Constitution.
They have efffectively opposed the Vatican which has been pushing hard over the past year for its inclusion.
Speaking ahead of the meeting of head of states to ratify the Constitution in Rome this week. British European Minister Denis McShane said: "A minority of states have expressed a wish for more religious references in the draft EU Constitutional Treaty.
"In particular them have been calls for the Treaty preamble to refer to Europe's Christian mots. However, the Government considers that it may not be appropriate to include more detailed provisions dealint. with religion in the draft Treaty," Mr MacShane added that the EU was "a multi-cultural group of states, with a large non-Christian population".
He said: "Britain is itself a multi-cultural and multi-faith society. Any reference in the Constitutional Treaty would need to reflect this diversity, which is one of the greatest strengths both of Britain and of the EU".
Michael Ancrairn, Shadow Foreign Secretary and a Catholic, said "We are against a Constitution and therefore the question does not arise."
However, British Conservative Euro-MPs were among those. to vote against any reference to Christianity last month.
The move is bound to infuriate Vatican officials who have lobbied to ensure that Europe's Christian roots were acknowledged. The Pope even had a private meeting to discuss the issue with Valerie Giscand d'Estaing, president of the Ewopean Convention in June.
A formal response by the Church to the draft document was presented by Bishop Josef Homeyer of Hildesheim and President of COMECE. the commission of the Catholic bishops' conferences for member states of the EU He wrote: "Without wishing to detract from other contributions, no other religion or philosophical movement has inspired Europe as much as Christianity."
He asked also that there be a reference to God in the Constitution. "A reminder of the limits of human power, and of responsibility before God, humankind and Creation, would be an important sign that public power is not absolute," he said.
Mgr Aldo Giordano, secretary-general of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences said: "One gets the impression that the text has improved, because by eliminating the phrase that referred to the roots of Europe — the Greco-Roman civilisation, the spiritual impulse, and the Enlightenment — the crude historical error, of not mentioning Christianity, is avoided. A clear reference to the Judaeo-Christian roots will allow Europe to become a new point of reference for the whole of humanity."
Archbishop Mario Conti Of Glasgow has also dismissed the Constitution as "cultural vandalism". He said the deliberate exclusion of any mention of Christian identity was a "profoundly dishonest re-working of history" which failed to respect or acknowledge. Europe's spiritual and Christian culture".
The Vatican's request has had the support of Poland, Portugal, Spain and Ireland.
Editorial comment: Page 9 BY TRACY-JO SMITH
ONE 01. LONDON'S bestloved churches is to play host to a remarkable tribute to Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The Brompton Oratory is to host an exhibition of paintings to precede the beatification of Mother Teresa on October 19.
Sunita Kumar, who relayed to the world the news of Mother Teresa's death, is showing the paintings to celebrate the life and work of the nun who is about to be proclaimed blessed.
Sunita, a renowned Indian painter, worked closely with Mother Teresa over a period of more than 30 years. Among the paintings to be exhibited are several at' Mother Teresa's room that has been left exactly as it was when she was alive.
Others include Mother in the Chapel, Sisters of Mercy Washing in the Courtyard and Mother with Children together with subjects directly inspired by Calcutta and its rich legacy of colonial architecture.
Sunita began painting as a teenager and over the years her work has been exhibited in Delhi, Florence and London. This is her 11th exhibition and the idea of staging this one was suggested by a friend who saw one of the paintings of Mother's Room in the artist's home in Calcutta.
Mother Teresa was a frequent visitor to the Kumar's home, where she would sit and appraise the artist's work.