Monday, August 16, 2004

Vatican comes out in the open

Having been careful in the past not to pronounce on the prospect of Turkey's accession to the EU too loudly – instead trying to rig the constitution to include a reference to Christianity, thus making it impossible for her to join – the Vatican now seems to be breaking cover and voicing direct opposition to Turkey's entry.

The "voice of the Vatican" in this case is the Church's top theologian, German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who told Le Figaro magazine last week that Turkey is "in permanent contrast to Europe". Linking it to Europe would be a mistake. In effect, Europe is Christian, so Turkey does not belong.

This is by no means the first time that the Vatican has pronounced on EU affairs, it having openly supported the recent enlargement and actively encouraged Poland to vote "yes" in its referendum. Furthermore, only a year ago, Pope John Paul II was openly stressing the importance of "the new Europe... to build herself by revitalizing her original Christian roots."

This current intervention by Ratzinger may signal a new assertiveness by the Vatican, determined to shape the post-enlargement EU and equally determined to block Turkey's entry.

What many consider is "interference" by the Holy See in the secular affairs of the EU may, however, backfire. The Protestant North has long since overthrown Vatican authority and is hardly likely to take kindly to any attempts to reassert it.

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