The Vatican continues to push for a mention of Christianity in the European Union's constitution.
As the EU nears the end of its work on its first constitution, Pope John Paul II stepped up lobbying efforts to include a reference alluding to the continent's Christian roots. Agence France Presse reported that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently the EU president, a position rotated among the Union's 15 members, promised the Vatican that he would ask other nations to include the religious reference. Berlusconi conceded, the news agency reported, that it was unlikely the Christian reference would be included in the final constitution. Only four of the EU countries support the Vatican's call Ireland, Italy, Poland and Spain.
French President Jacques Chirac opposes a reference to God or Christianity on the grounds it runs afoul of church-state separation.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sided with Chirac, saying that "Freedom of conscience and a ban on all discrimination are the founding principles of modern Europe." Turkey, a predominantly Islamic nation with a secular government, is seeking to join the EU.