France secularising eu
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France criticised by 22 of Europe's elder statesmen
By Philip Delves Broughton
Twenty-two of Europe's wise men, from ex-prime ministers to Nobel prize winners, have denounced France's insistence on secularising the European Union and establishing a strict separation between Church and state. In an essay in yesterday's Le Monde, the elder statesmen said in Europe, Christianity was "at the root of the fundamental notion of the individual".
They said Christianity had a paradoxical history, as it both created the European conscience and caused wars. The role of religion had been debated throughout centuries of intellectual and scientific advance, but had ultimately always come down to a choice for individuals and their consciences, they added.
The authors included former presidents Richard Weizsaecker of Germany, Mario Soares of Portugal and Arpad Goncz of Hungary.
The remarks were directed both at the authors of the new EU constitution, which contains no reference to Christianity, and at France, where President Jacques Chirac is considering a new law to reinforce the secularism of national institutions. "Everything we see today shows the limits of a narrowly 'secularist' vision in European societies," the essay said. "The end of ideological oppression and the rise of various forms of fundamentalism lead to a better understanding of reality."