Churches welcome draft EU constitution

European bishops have welcomed the draft EU constitution issued by the Presidium of the European Convention on Monday. Rev R'diger Noll, director of the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and Mgr No'l Treanor, Secretary General of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) published the following statement yesterday: "We congratulate the members of the European Convention for the impressive work which has been achieved so far. Their efforts are a significant step forward towards making the European Union more understandable, more effective and more accountable. "In their numerous contributions to the Convention, Churches and church-linked organisations have promoted the concept of the Union as a community of values based on respect for human dignity and human rights, liberty, democracy, justice, solidarity, sustainable development and the pursuance of the common good. We therefore welcome the inclusion of these values and objectives in the draft constitution and the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We particularly welcome the amendments which will strengthen the Union's commitment to a social market economy and, in its relations with the wider world, to promote peace, security, free and fair trade, protection of human rights and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter. "Title VI of the constitution on the "Democratic Life of the Union", which has been improved in the light of the debate in the Convention, will help citizens to participate and feel that they have a stake in the EU democratic process by recognising the importance of different actors in society. We welcome the growing consensus on the place of religion in the future EU as reflected by the amended draft Article 51 (previously Article 37). This article guarantees the EU's respect for the status of churches and religious communities in the Member States based on their different constitutional traditions. The provision for open, transparent and regular dialogue reflects the specific contribution of churches and religious communities, distinct from secular authority, at the service of society as a whole. "We wish the Convention members inspiration and courage for the coming weeks during which they will work towards a final consensus. Their work should be a strong signal to both citizens and governments in the European Union." The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of 126 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 43 associated organisations. COMECE is a commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conferences of the member states of the European Union. The Bishops' Conferences of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland are associate members.

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