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Letter from Russian Orthodox Church to the Convention on the Future of Europe

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk

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Letter from the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad to the Chairman of the Presidium of the Convention on the Future of Europe Mr Valéry Giscard d'Estaing of 14 February 2003

May I cordially greet you and express my high appreciation of your activities as Chairman of the Presidium of the Convention on the Future of Europe, since this representative assembly is completing its work with serious and specific achievements.

The Convention had an unprecedented task to assess results of the European integration and to provide new legal framework for its development in future. Last October you presented a description of a draft treaty, establishing a Constitution for Europe, and the draft of its first 16 articles was put out in February 2003.

I am convinced that you are well aware of active involvement of the Churches and religious associations in discussing the Convention themes and of their attitude to particular issues. The Russian Orthodox Church expressed its opinion in a special statement on the work of the Convention and also through the Conference of European Churches, being its permanent member. Besides, we have found many ideas harmonious with our position in the statements made by the Orthodox Church of Greece, the Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, the Evangelical Church of Germany, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and many other Churches and communities.

The Orthodox Christians of Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as the Baltic countries understand that the values laid into the foundation of the European Union will serve as a starting point for domestic life of its member countries and for the relationship of the EU with its neighbours. That is why the Russian Orthodox Church has been interested in the elaboration of the document, which very soon will determine the life of many countries in Europe, including its Orthodox population. This prompts me to share with you, with all participants of the Convention and with European public my views on the first results of the work of the Convention.

Before doing that I would like to refer to the recent experience of our country, through the prism of which those who live in the East of Europe, inevitably assess the present situation. The religious life in the USSR was limited by private sphere, while any religiously motivated public action was persecuted, as it did not conform to the dominant ideology. In the draft (with a reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights) there are standards, which defend the religious freedom of an individual, including that in his social life, but there are no standards, which guarantee that integral religious philosophy of life will be taken into account, when socially important decisions are elaborated and social order is built up.

them away. No one has tried so far to explain the reason of active unwillingness to allow even a symbolic presence of Christian values in the Treaty.

Certainly, the values fixed in the project, such as human dignity, freedom, supremacy of law, tolerance, justice and solidarity are not alien to Christian morals. However, they are disputable to the faithful if not linked with concrete moral values. History knows how often these values were exploited to establish tyranny, to manipulate human consciousness, to justify various vices, etc.

The faithful are also anxious for how all these values will be interpreted, when practical decisions are taken, for example, in the field of sexual relations, the institute of marriage, the use of the achievements of science, and in information and cultural policy. Unfortunately, we see persistent efforts to fix on the level of the European Union the standards, which do not conform to religious and philosophical choice of some nations. Suffice it to give an example of the resolution on human rights approved by the European Parliament in January 2003, which contains an appeal to hold the all-European campaign in support of homosexual marriages and obtain permission for women to visit the Holy Mount Athos. In the latter case, the religious tradition of the country belonging to the European Union is outraged, while the established standard is clear and indisputable to majority of the citizens of this country. Why is the minority, which does not understand this standard, given a possibility to impose its viewpoint to the majority through the EU mechanisms of governance? Does the mechanism of democracy become inconsistent, and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe may find themselves in a new 'Procrustean bed'? Is it possible that the European Union will use the same approach in the dialogue with its neighbours, for example, with Russia, Ukraine, and Byelorussia?

Moreover, there is a predominance of values of anthropocentric humanism in the Constitutional Treaty draft as compared to religious national and cultural ones. Faith, holy places and objects, an opportunity to lead an integral religious life, cultural and national self-identification and the notion of Fatherland are no less important for many people than their everyday well-being, material comfort, health and earthly life as such. That is why religious and cultural-national values, especially in case of any conflict, must be defended by law just as those of life, freedom, human dignity, to say nothing about material and economic values.

On the basis of these considerations the Russian Orthodox Church supports efforts of European religious associations, which insist that the mechanism of defending specific culture and religious philosophy of life of the EU nations must be fixed in the Constitutional Treaty. We believe that the draft should contain:

A reference to the Christian heritage of the European Union, as well as other religious traditions and secular thoughts and ideas. This provision added to the preamble or any article will allow avoiding the monopoly of a single interpretation of the declared values and broadening the range of values recognized as important.

A provision on the mechanism of consultations between the European institutions and religious communities of the European Union. That standard would allow considering the opinion of religious communities when important decisions on cultural, information and scientific policy are taken.

A provision on the prerogative of the EU member-states in regulating the religious sphere. It would be expedient to include Appendix 11 to the Amsterdam Treaty in the Constitution. This move is aimed at preserving cultural and religious identity of European nations that have worked out balanced systems of relations between religion and the state during centuries.

I hope that you, Mr Chairman, and the esteemed assembly will take into account the presented considerations when drawing up the final text of the Constitutional Treaty. I am confident that lending an ear to the voice of churches and religious communities, whose members are mostly Europeans, the Convention and EU governing bodies will show true democracy in their work, a desire to base their actions on the opinion of people as well as non-acceptance of ideological diktat.

This article can be found on the Orthodox Europe website. Reprinting allowed.

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