Secretary of State of the Holy See

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 26 September 1995

Mr President, Mr Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, some seven years ago, on 8 October 1988, Pope John Paul II was received in this hall on the occasion of his visit to the European institutions in Strasbourg. Today I have the same honour and I make it my first duty to express heartfelt thanks to the current President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Mr Miguel Angel Martinez, and to you, the distinguished representatives of the parliaments of the thirty-six member countries, observers and guests.

The kind and cordial words that your President has addressed to me are, in my opinion, meant much more for Pope John Paul II and his assistants than for myself. In the seven years since the Pope’s visit to this institution much has changed in Europe. Even the configuration of this Parliamentary Assembly has changed. We now see members from new countries who have given this Organisation a broader outlook and a stronger determination to pursue European unity.

Today we are living in a new Europe, but we also face new challenges. We see new opportunities for material and spiritual progress – and at the same time, new dangers. The old oak still stretches wide its strong branches but it is exposed to winds which buffet it from without and to ills which threaten it from within.

When Pope John Paul II visited the Assembly on the eve of the collapse of the system of blocs which made 1989 the year of new and decisive changes, he made this memorable observation: “If Europe wants to be faithful to itself, it must be able to join all the living forces of this continent, respecting the original character of each region, but rediscovering at its roots a common spirit [...] in expressing my fervent desire to see an increase in co-operation with other nations, particularly those of the centre and east, I am convinced that I give voice to the desire of millions of men and women who know that they are bound together by a common history and who look forward to a future of unity and solidarity commensurate with the greatness of this continent.”

The Popes have also taken an interest in the activities of the Council of Europe, its Parliamentary Assembly and its Commission and Court of Human Rights. For this reason the Holy See, which has been present in the Council of Europe for twenty-five years in the form of its permanent mission, knows and appreciates the efforts that this Organisation has made to become a truly pan-European organisation. The establishment of the Council of Europe created a space in Europe marked by respect for the principles of the rule of law, for constitutional principles and for human rights. The Council of Europe has successfully faced the challenges of its expansion and has helped to assist, support and promote the democratic reforms undertaken by the countries of central and eastern Europe. For its part, the Holy See wants to contribute to the progress of the continent by providing that additional spiritual element that every society needs.

As I said, since 1990 a new Europe has been born. The coming together of the two parts of Europe, long divided into blocs marked by different conceptions of the state and of social systems, cannot be brought about unilaterally. In a sense, the membership of new countries not only involves a growth of this European Institution but provides an important opportunity to gain a better understanding of its identity. If we wish the meeting of cultures and traditions to be fruitful, constructive and peaceful we must hope that it will be accompanied by a deeper understanding of the values and principles of law that are held in common by the people of this continent.

Together with many outstanding figures in politics, diplomacy, culture, art and science, and with members of other religious confessions, the Popes who have succeeded to the See of Peter in recent times have constantly sought to promote a common European identity based on the civilisation that, coming from Greece and Rome, took root in the Celtic, Germanic and Slav peoples and greatly developed down the centuries, thanks to the vital contribution of Christianity, which has been of enormous influence in forging a conception of the world and of man that is typical of this continent.

As I stand before you, the worthy representatives of most of the peoples of Europe, I wish to express some hopes for the future. Your Institution is particularly concerned with questions of law – working for a solution to the most sensitive problems of society, helping to modernise law and to adapt it to new needs in society, favouring the juridical promotion and protection of common values, and harmonising the legislation of different nations. I am pleased to recall in particular two important conventions – the Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities and the European convention on bioethics.

Political wisdom consists in foreseeing conflicts as well as solving them. To that end, the Council of Europe has created a juridical instrument that benefits minorities while respecting the prerogatives of states. That represents a significant contribution to peace through the establishment of a juridical order that will certainly affect the future political organisation of Europe.

The draft convention on bioethics has the great merit of attempting to establish general norms in an area where today’s juridical vacuum is a source of great concern. The future convention will be a valuable and important text precisely because it will provide a model and point of reference even outside the European context. A great responsibility lies with those individuals who are drafting that document and with those who will have to adopt it – a responsibility that is not only juridical but ethical and political.

Europe’s social aspect is a constant concern of the churches of Europe. Given the disintegration of the social fabric, the increase in unemployment and the growing marginalisation of a part of Europe’s peoples, I praise the efforts and initiatives of the Council of Europe in those areas – particularly its campaign against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance launched by the Vienna Summit in October 1993 and effectively implemented this year. Similarly, I commend the work of the Council of Europe in social cohesion and its fight against all forms of poverty, exclusion and marginalisation. I congratulate the Council on its good co-operation with non-governmental organisations.

In that exciting yet challenging project, the Holy See is happy to share in your work and it will continue to offer its specific contribution. In a special way, it will faithfully recall the transcendent dimension of man. In reality, human rights are rooted in the universal nature of human reason, which is not detached from the transcendent. To affirm such a realism of human rights is not to deny but to confirm the importance of the Council of Europe’s dedication to the cause of democracy – specifically in translating them into international conventions, thus protecting human rights whenever they are violated.

The Catholic Church in no way threatens democratic freedoms when she affirms the transcendence of man, as she is herself at the service of that transcendence. The Church has been given the mission of serving man in every aspect of his being and particularly in his spiritual vocation. She offers her vision of the person, with confidence that that vision can be shared on the level of reason and law in a sincere and respectful dialogue, with every point of view truly concerned with the defence and promotion of human dignity.

I want to express, in the name of the Holy See, the hope that everyone responsible for the future of Europe will always foster that transcendent vision of man, which is also the common historical heritage of Christians, Jews and Muslims. It provides the elements that have enabled the peoples of the west and east and of the north and south of Europe to find meaning in daily life, the human person, the family and the foundation of our civilisation. Unfortunately, during the present century those values were trampled on by totalitarian ideologies that plunged us into fratricidal wars and appalling tragedies in which millions of men and women fell victim to those who refused to recognise the dignity of the human person. Whenever the basic ethical values of European culture have been forgotten people have come to exalt ethnic grouping, class, race or the state and thus to lay the foundations for the tragedies that we have endured.

Only by rediscovering the fundamental values of our 2 000-year-old history shall we find the inspiration needed to build a better future for our continent. Sharing the spirit of those people of goodwill who first sought to reconcile and bring together the peoples of the continent, the Holy See has not ceased, since the beginning of the European movement, to encourage the building of Europe.

The Christian Churches themselves have created structures on the continental level. As to the Catholic Church, I must make mention of the Council of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe, which was established in 1971 to promote communication and co-operation between the episcopates of the whole continent. The election two years ago of a president from one of the countries of central Europe, the Archbishop of Prague, is a testimony to the commitment of the Church in Europe to the implementation of an effective exchange of the gifts between East and West.

In our own day, we can even say that the building of Europe has become a factor which calls for, encourages and manifests ecumenism between the Christian Churches as well as dialogue and co-operation with the other religious confessions present on this continent. In the building of Europe, the path of ecumenism is of great importance. It seems to me that I should mention in this regard the prayer meeting for Bosnia held in Assisi, the joint steps taken by the religious confessions present in the area of the Balkan conflict, the meeting in Graz, planned for 1997, on the subject of reconciliation organised jointly by the Conference of Christian Churches and the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe.

The encouragement given to the ecumenical movement by the recent Encyclical Ut Unum Sint of Pope John Paul II, while principally aimed at the rapprochement of the Christian confessions worldwide, will certainly have positive and fruitful Consequences for Europe.

Permit me therefore to express the hope that Catholics and Orthodox, Protestants and Anglicans, Christians of all confessions will contribute to making the leaven of the Gospels bring new life to our civilisation. This is an estimable work, one to which the leaders of Europe’s future should pay greater attention, so that the tree which has already borne such abundant fruit will produce even more, in the service of the peoples of Europe.

In this context, it will be easy to see why the Holy See is concerned about the presence of certain evident tendencies in the areas of individual rights, the definition of the family, and respect for life.

Therefore, I would express the hope that Europe will continue to cultivate the value of life and the family. You are well aware of the problems on this subject, and you are often called upon to reflect on questions which are essentially ethical in nature.

In 1988, in this very place, Pope John Paul stated: “It is necessary never to lose sight of the dignity of the person, from the first moment of conception to the final stages of illness or the most serious dimming of the mental faculties. You will understand that I am repeating here the Church’s conviction: the human being always has value as a person because life is God’s gift. The weakest have the right to your protection, care and affection on the part of those near to them and a right to the support of society.”

When we think of European families, we must acknowledge that society has made it difficult for them to maintain their balance and their stability. And together with the crisis of the family, we are naturally witnessing a striking decline in population.

You are well aware of the great importance which Catholics attribute to the family. For his part, Pope John Paul II addressed to the world his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio and subsequently, through various initiatives, took part in the celebration of the Year of the Family sponsored by the United Nations. The celebration of the Year of the Family took on a certain importance in the countries of Europe too.

When I consider the make-up of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly, I am prompted to express another hope: the hope that in a short time still other states may be able to join this Council, so as to ensure that Europe really does become a common home for all the peoples of the continent.

Obviously, states which aspire to entry will have to commit themselves to respect for human rights, upon which membership in this Institution rests. Certainly these rights, so clearly enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the United Nations in 1948 and in the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950, have become the common patrimony of modern states. But, as you rightly insist, these rights need to be set-down effectively in the constitutions and legislation of the different states, and duly applied in the life of each national community.

The Holy See believes that the implementation of the commitments undertaken by all member countries at the moment of entry is more relevant than ever for the strengthening of this Europe of law and of peoples. Consequently, the Holy See encourages the efforts currently being made by this institution to develop more effective methods of verifying that those commitments are respected, and for making the decisions of the Court of Human Rights speedier and thus more effective.

Finally, allow me to express a wish: that there will soon be respect for human rights also in the Balkans, whose peoples are suffering appalling violations of their human rights. The events that have taken place in the former Yugoslavia during the last four years have represented a setback for European civilisation and above all a denial of the juridical principles which ought to be the basis of co-existence between individuals and nations.

It began in the summer of 1991, when the decision was made to replace the rights of peoples with the roar of cannons, and attempts were made to resolve by force of arms what should have been resolved by the force of law. As a result we have witnessed the greatest tragedy that has taken place in Europe from the end of the second world war until the present day. The violations of the most elementary human rights are well known to all. We need but refer to the reports which Mr Mazowiecki has presented to the United Nations.

Before this distinguished Assembly, it only remains for me to express the hope that, henceforth, the primacy both of law and of negotiation will prevail over brutal force and mistrust, and that the deeply afflicted peoples of the different Balkan states will quickly be able to enjoy the peace to which they so legitimately aspire.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, these are the hopes which in the name of the Holy See I have wished to express in your presence today. I thank you for the contribution which you are already making to the building of a new Europe, in freedom and justice, in harmony and solidarity, and I ask you to persevere resolutely along this path.

May Almighty God bless your work in the service of Europe. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you, Your Eminence.

A number of you have questions for the Cardinal. Fortunately in view of the late hour, some of them have been grouped together. I thank my colleagues for being so precise about the issues they wanted to address.

I am afraid there will be no time for supplementary questions. The first set of questions are those of Mr Valleix and Mr Pozzo, but Mr Pozzo is not here. I call Mr Valleix.

Mr VALLEIX (France) (translation)

Your Eminence, after your fascinating and sobering address, which was in itself an invitation to meditation, I should like to return to the subject of the family, which you already touched upon, and above all its eminent role reflected, for the Catholic Church, in the bond of marriage.

Too many people in Europe are unaware of the natural mission of the family in transmitting ethical values with a view to the welfare and fulfilment of the young, a role which requires certain rules and guidelines.

But looking a little further, in the face of a certain tendency nowadays to give credence to relationships which have nothing to do with family values, even going as far as adoption, what does common sense dictate? I think it is important to protect children and to give them affection in a healthy and balanced environment.

How can the Church modernise its language, so to speak, to make its voice heard on these matters?

His Eminence, Secretary of State of the Holy See (translation)

The Holy See regards the role of the family as vital to the harmonious development of society. In fact, one of the merits of the most recent papal summits attended by bishops and Catholic organisations from all over the world has been to stress the pastoral care of the family.

All the constitutions of modem states refer to the family as the natural foundation of society, a foundation which the state has undertaken to protect and foster. On its own initiative, the Holy See is setting up some specific bodies (including, ultimately, a papal council for the family) to promote help from the Catholic Church for our families. I therefore fully agree with you about how essential the role of the family is today.

Mr SCHWIMMER (Austria) (translation)

I should like to ask His Eminence to what extent the Holy See supports the Parliamentary Assembly’s ideas on the bioethics convention.

Mr ANTRETTER (Germany) (translation)

Your Eminence, your wise speech of reconciliation was an impressive reminder of the address the Holy Father gave here seven years ago. It accorded gratifyingly with the principles that are held dear by the European community of nations with shared values, principles that have their home in this Assembly and for the cultivation and broader acceptance of which the President of our Assembly, in particular, has done so much invaluable work.

Against the background of the dangers to which you have referred, and convinced that my views coincide with the relevant paragraphs of the encyclical Evangelium vitae, I should like to ask you, Your Eminence, whether the support of the Holy See can continue to be counted on by all those among us who want to ward off the danger of interventions on legally incapacitated persons without their consent, who do not want to allow a possible distinction being drawn in the future between a human being and a person, and who are all the more dependent on your help since the steering committee does not appear to be willing to accept the Parliamentary Assembly’s critical objections concerning the bioethics convention. Thank you very much, Your Eminence.

Mrs MELANDRI (Italy) (translation)

I would first like to thank Cardinal Sodano for his inspired and inspiring speech. He dealt with a lot of subjects, but there is one I would particularly like to come back to. I refer to bioethics. In recent years, the Church has issued warnings and expressed concern, if not downright condemnation, about the new frontiers of molecular biology and the essence of life. I am among those who have more than once appreciated these ringing appeals for human integrity and dignity from such an august and authoritative source.

I remember that, in this Assembly Chamber, during the debate on a draft European convention on bioethics, many speakers emphasised the need always to be guided by the principle that science should serve humanity and not the other way round. As the twentieth century draws to a close, science is making spectacular strides, especially in the field of molecular biology, and further progress in research offers new hopes of finding a cure for diseases which so far have seemed to be incurable.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Madam, you had thirty seconds to ask your question, but you have already spoken for one minute and forty seconds, which will prevent other colleagues from asking their questions. I am very sorry, but I must interrupt you. I call Cardinal Sodano.

His Eminence, Secretary of State of the Holy See (translation)

I understood the questions from Mrs Melandri and the honourable German members of parliament. The Holy See has been associated, as an observer, with the deliberations of the committee on bioethics, as it is convinced that this is a laudable move whose aim is to offer the member states an international point of reference on this important subject where developments are constantly occurring. Together with some other states, we drew attention to the fact that the disabled must be better protected and that in the draft it is advisable to refer explicitly to the legal or illegal use of human embryos in research. We also called for a more precise definition of the human person or human being, which is the term some people prefer. I think that it is extremely important to clarify which human beings have to be protected with respect to new biological techniques. To this end, the aim of our contribution should be to help in the preparation of a better text.

Baroness GOULD OF POTTERNEWTON (United Kingdom)

I wish to thank His Eminence for a very thought-provoking and extremely interesting speech and for his obvious and clear concerns on the issue of human rights.

His Eminence is no doubt aware that the Council of Europe fully supports the declaration adopted by the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights that the human rights of women and the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.

At the United Nations 4th Conference on Women, which has just been held in Beijing and which provided a platform for women and families throughout the world, it appeared that one of the concerns of the Holy See related to the question of women’s rights being a fundamental part of human rights. I wonder whether His Eminence would elaborate on that concern and give the Holy See’s view on the principles on the programme of action agreed at the conference. I appreciate, Your Eminence, that you have submitted some reservations in writing.

Mr SOLE TURA (Spain) (translation)

Do you think it is possible to carry on the battle for better living conditions and human rights effectively, particularly the rights of women in under-developed countries, without an effective family planning policy?

Mr FIGEL (Slovak Republic)

My question is based on the experience of the Cairo United Nations conference and the recent Beijing United Nations women’s conference. It appears that we often speak of the enlargement of the European Union, Nato and so on. I represent one of the applicant countries. I and, I believe, colleagues from other countries, would like to know Cardinal Sodano’s opinion on the European Union policy on sensitive issues that concern and tackle the question of human dignity. Should we be aware of some new aspect or should some new light be shed on the question of what should be done to improve action at an international level?

Mrs GUIRADO (Spain) (interpretation)

asked about the protection of the rights of pregnant women.

His Eminence, Secretary of State of the Holy See (translation)

The Holy See has accepted the invitation of the United Nations to take part, as a full member, in the Beijing Conference, as it did in the first three conferences on women and in other conferences which discussed matters relevant to the mission of the Catholic Church. I myself have sometimes represented the Holy See on such occasions: for example, at the Conference on Social Development in Copenhagen and at the Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

We are trying to make our contribution and to get across our view of life without, obviously, wanting to impose any part of it. Just as any state is entitled to announce its own policy, so the Holy See claims the right to speak out and announce its policy. We think we are doing something useful by drawing attention to our teaching on men, women and the family. I always remember with pleasure that a non-Catholic head of state at the Cairo Conference on Population, who had initially been highly critical of our position, said to me afterwards: “I am very grateful to your delegation for making us reflect on serious matters, as you did”. That was gratifying.

The Holy See has been invited because the doctrine of the Catholic Church offers its own view of the family and of family planning by natural methods. There is plenty of literature on this topic with which you are better acquainted than I. The Church does not maintain that people must have two or four or six children, but demands that parents should be free to decide on the size of their family and points out that this choice must be based on moral criteria. That is our position.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Ten questions remain, so I must ask speakers to be brief and to the point. I call Mr Liapis.

Mr LIAPIS (Greece)

Your Eminence, since the restoration of democracy in eastern European countries the Orthodox Churches have enjoyed freedom of religion, but they are still weak. Is it true that the Catholic Church has found an appropriate occasion to extend its influence in Orthodox countries? What is the Vatican’s position on the propaganda in those eastern European countries, bearing in mind that preparations are under way for the 400-year celebration in the Polish cities of Brest and Litotsk?


Your Eminence, your very wise words echoed the words of His Holiness the Pope on his recent visit to Slovakia, when he again called for tolerance between citizens with different national and denominational backgrounds. In view of the Holy See’s well-known stance, what measures are envisaged to enable the almost 400 000 Catholic Hungarians of Slovakia to strengthen their faith and religious life by having a bishop or auxiliary bishops, who would be selected from among them and who would look after their spiritual needs in their mother tongue, in accordance with the second Vatican synod? As your Eminence is aware, at a recent pilgrimage a petition requesting that, signed by 50 000 people, was presented to the Vatican.

Mr HEGYI (Hungary)

Your Eminence, as you may know, five years ago Hungary passed legislation on the freedom of religion. However, it is easier to declare freedom than to compensate the Church for the property confiscated by the communists. The process is continuing and more than 1 000 buildings have now been given back to the Church in Hungary, but, due to Hungary’s economic troubles, the process is far from being quick. How do your see the present position of the Catholic Church in Hungary?

His Eminence, Secretary of State of the Holy See (translation)

I would reply to Mr Liapis that the concept of religious freedom is fundamental to us Catholics. All human beings, no matter whether they live in Siberia, Africa or Asia, have the right to religious freedom. As the Pope wishes to live his Christian faith within the Catholic Church, he must ensure religious ministration by appointing bishops and seeing to it that parishes have priests. This is not proselytism, but helping individuals freely to choose the faith they wish to profess.

In the old days, one was forced to practice a specified religion, but those times are over. The old principle of cuius regio eius religio, that is to say the obligation to practise the religion of the region in which one lived, is now obsolete. I therefore think that the Council of Europe ought to encourage the spread of a climate of religious freedom because of Europe’s diversity.

Mr Jeszenszky, I am well acquainted with the question of the spiritual needs of the Hungarians of Slovakia. Some local bishops do speak Hungarian and can therefore cater for these needs but, all the same, the Holy See, together with the Slovakian bishops, is trying to keep an eye on this matter, so as to improve ministration to the Hungarians who have stayed in Slovakia after the famous treaties.

Mr Hegyi, I must say that the Church in Hungary has achieved substantial progress with regard to the restitution of its property. The problem has not yet been solved completely and I would like to stress that, in requesting the return of its property, the Catholic Church is raising a question of justice, as indeed are the other churches, the Jewish community and various national states. We are therefore submitting these requests solely because we want justice restored after the violation of local Catholics’ rights by communism. It is therefore only right that such injustice should be redressed.

Mrs SUCHOCKA (Poland) (translation)

My question concerns the role of the concordat in the modern world; how many concordats has the Holy See ratified since the second world war?

Mr LOPEZ HENARES (Spain) (translation)

In view of the position of the Holy See with regard to racism, xenophobia and intolerance which you explained so well, what concrete measures does Your Eminence think the Church should take to combat these scourges?

Mr RODRIGUES (Portugal) (translation)

The Holy See, which condemns violence in all its forms, has often deplored the tragedy in the former Yugoslavia that has already cost thousands of lives. You have said so again today. But what do you think, as Secretary of State, in accordance with the principles of the Church, of the Nato air strikes in the former Yugoslavia that raise the toll of human suffering even higher?

His Eminence, Secretary of State of the Holy See (translation)

In reply to Mrs Suchocka’s question about modern concordats, I would say that they are a formula for settling various questions between the Church and the state, for example schooling, church property, padres for the armed forces and all bilateral relations. Of course, there are other forms of co-existence, and governments are free to settle their relationship with the Church by means of laws and written agreements. For example, after the last world war, we signed a new concordat with Italy and new agreements in Spain, as we did with the post-communist states, on the subject of army padres. It is immaterial whether they are called a concordat, a formal agreement, a convention or a modus vivendi. This is certainly not the only form of co-existence: it is possible for people to get along together without, agreements. Sometimes these agreements were signed because there had been friction, or because legal stability was to be guaranteed in the event of a change of government.

Thus the history of concordats reflects the wish of two sovereign parties to settle various questions in their reciprocal interests: this is how concordats have come about.

We obviously fully endorse all the efforts made by the Council of Europe and modern states to ensure that the scourge of racism never reappears again in the continent of Europe. We can help by inculcating the noble ideal of reciprocal tolerance in school children and in members of youth movements and associations.

As far as the bombings in the former Yugoslavia are concerned, I know that it is everyone’s wish that the war should cease. After the end of the last world war, we all dreamed that such a bloodbath would never be repeated. Historians have spoken of more than fifty million deaths, and we do not want what happened at Hiroshima or Dresden to occur ever again. Recent popes have always borne witness to this and their watchword has been war on war.

And yet there have been many attempts to destroy peace. Accordingly, the United Nations incorporated in its charter (this was not therefore something which originated from the Holy See, but from the will of modern states) preventive and repressive measures to keep or restore peace. States are clearly free to make whatever arrangements they wish, and it is to the credit of countries today that they always exclude from their legal system the possibility of action against civilians in wartime. Consequently the Holy See likewise urges stronger assertion of the humanitarian principle that the bombing of civilians is always unjust, iniquitous and immoral. We are glad that humanitarian law exists even in wartime.

The Holy See has signed the convention banning chemical weapons. The United Nations conference against anti-personal mines is now taking place in Vienna. We likewise support this initiative. Nevertheless wars still continue. Cannons, submarines and aircraft still engage in warfare. Unfortunately this is the sad fate of the world today. We must all strive to abolish war and limit its disasters.

Mrs JAANI (Estonia)

Eminence, it has been repeatedly stated in this Assembly that the Holy See has been the laureate in spreading human values, and the goals of the Holy See and the Council of Europe are very similar in that respect. What is your opinion on the rapid expansion of the Council of Europe? Do you see any threat in this expansion? Will the expansion reduce the quality and high standards of this Organisation?

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom)

My question is about the future of Jerusalem. I asked King Hussein yesterday whether he accepted the Vatican plan and he responded by saying that the old city and the holy places should belong to all religions and should come under no one sovereignty. Is the Holy See promoting the principle of the internationalisation of the old city of Jerusalem as part of the current peace process?

Mr WIELOWIEYSKI (Poland) (translation)

Your Eminence, the encyclicals are very clear about the need to form effective supranational structures. Our great predecessors, the fathers of Europe, were generally intelligent Christians who wanted to found European unity on Christian traditions and principles.

Recently, however, there seems to have been strong resistance in certain countries, especially in Christian and indeed Catholic circles, to further European integration. The reasons are multiple. What is your opinion of this phenomenon?

Mr LA RUSSA (Italy)

Your Eminence, with reference to the Holy Father’s journey to Africa, I believe that the Church’s evangelism is bound to lead to a more staunch defence of human rights in one continent. How many years will it take for Africa to have an organisation like ours, rigorous in its choice of members which must be genuine democracies? Is the Church also endeavouring to attain this goal?

Mr ARATA (Italy) (translation)

Mr President, Your Eminence, I would just like to make one brief comment. We must acknowledge that under your guidance, especially at the conferences in Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro and Beijing, considerable impetus has been given to the political debate mapping out the way forward for the next millennium. Where, in the opinion of the Holy See, does development policy for the Mediterranean fit in, this being an area where three religious wars are now in progress? What is the Holy See’s vision of real development in the Mediterranean area?

His Eminence, Secretary of State of the Holy See (translation)

Mr President, Mrs Jaani, the Council of Europe must include as many countries as possible, because this will help to create a new Europe able to give much to all concerned. I do not think that the Holy See has any difficulty in accepting this.

Mr Atkinson, you asked for clarification regarding the future of Jerusalem and, above all, of whether the Holy See is endeavouring to secure the internationalisation of the whole city. I must point out that reference has never been made to the whole city, but to the old part of the city, within the walls. Furthermore, the term “internationalisation” has not been used for some time; instead there has been talk of the need for international guarantees. In fact the Holy See recommends that Jerusalem should be shared by everyone and not divided.

Mr Jeszenszky, have no fear. Of course the spread of a united Europe can give rise to problems in some nations. Even if clergymen sometimes express a poor opinion of the West, this is a moral, not a political opinion.

Mr La Russa, the Pope’s visit to Africa was very cheering. The Holy Father is not pessimistic, but optimistic about Africa, because he sees peoples who are making progress. The Pope noted the tragedy of the dictatorship in Nairobi and the violations of human rights in Kenya, and he has given much thought to the tragic situation of the refugees from Rwanda and Burundi. I think that his visit was most constructive.

I doubt whether the conflicts in the Mediterranean, to which Mr Arata referred, can be defined as religious. The war in the Balkans is about power, with one group wanting to dominate another; it is not a struggle between religions. It is not a civil war, but a war against civilians. I would not therefore talk of a religious war, but of the eternal lust for power.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Your Eminence must have beaten an all-time record. It is very rare for us to put twenty questions to a guest speaker. So it is not surprising that we are now running a little behind schedule.