Church representatives yesterday praised the European Union's support for dialogue with religious communities at a meeting in Dublin with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern T.D., and President-in-office of the European Council. The delegation representing the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) welcomed recent initiatives, including the Declaration on Inter-Faith Dialogue adopted by EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers on 28 November 2003 and the seminar on Anti-Semitism organised by the European Commission and Jewish organisations on 19 February 2004. The draft European Constitution would provide a regular opportunity for the EU institutions to discuss issues of mutual concern with religious communities, said the representatives of Europe's Churches, referring to Article 51 of the draft treaty. They also pointed out that an open and inclusive reference to Christianity in the preamble, recognizing the historical fact of the Christianity's contribution to Europe, whilst not seeking any privilege, would help many European citizens to identify more closely with the Union. The church representatives encouraged the Irish EU Presidency to continue its search for a compromise between Member States on the draft Constitution. They also thanked the Presidency for its efforts to ensure the full and effective integration of the ten new Member States after they join the EU on 1 May. It would, they said, be an historic step towards peace and unity on the European continent. The members of the delegation urged Mr Ahern to emphasise social inclusion, the tackling of poverty and support for the family when EU leaders review the Lisbon Strategy for economic growth at a summit in Brussels on 25-26 March. They also called on the Irish Presidency to ensure that the civil rights of refugees and asylum-seekers would not be infringed by two draft EU directives currently being negotiated by Member States. The churches asked the Irish Presidency to do all in its power to ensure that a dignified treatment of refugees and migrants be put at the centre of a common EU migration and asylum policy. CEC: Mr George McCullagh (Presbyterian Church in Ireland), Dr. Kenneth Milne (Church of Ireland), Rev Dr Peter Pavlovic (CEC), Rev. Matthew Ross (CEC) and Sabine von Zanthier (CEC/EKD) COMECE: Bishop Joseph Duffy (Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference), Mgr Noel Treanor (COMECE), Dr. Hugh Connolly (Vice-President, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth), Dr. Brian Flynn (Irish Bishops' Conference)
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