Reflecting the Vatican view that Europe must fight to retain its Christian identity, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has said that bringing Turkey into the European Union would put European culture at risk.
"Europe is a cultural and not a geographical continent," he said.
"Turkey always represented another continent throughout history, in permanent contrast with Europe," so to equate the two continents "would be a mistake," he told the magazine of the French newspaper Le Figaro in an interview published last week.
Turkey has been a candidate for European Union membership since 1999, but EU officials delayed negotiations to discuss its accession until more progress has been made in economic, political and human rights reforms. Whether Turkey, a mostly Muslim nation, can join accession talks is set to be decided by the 25-state European Union later this year.
Cardinal Ratzinger, who presides over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said Europe is united by its "culture which gives it a common identity. The roots which formed ... this continent are those of Christianity."
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