Letter to the President of the Greek Government Mr. Simitis on Greek Presidency23/1/2003
His Excellency,The European Constitution should fully guarantee religious freedom and basic Human Rights and prohibit deceitful proselytism.
Mr. Constantinos Simitis,
President of the Greek Government.
"I believe that all who possess intelligence are obliged to admit that education and culture are the most important of all the good things that we possess, not only our own religious culture…but also secular culture as well” (Gregory the Theologian, “Funeral Oration in honour of Basil the Great", Migne, P.G. 36, 508-509).
Your Excellency, Mr. President,
The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece congratulates you on our Country’s assumption of the Presidency of the European Union, and wishes to you personally and to the members of the Government all success in the difficult but honourable task of coordinating the actions of the Leaders of Europe. Certainly we understand that to a great degree the initiatives and decisions to be taken during this current six-month period are based on a framework already fixed by the member-States and the competent European organs. Despite this, it is our belief that the Greek Presidency can and must leave its legible stamp upon this six-month period and towards this end we have the honour, and take the initiative to express to you our views. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, we state at the very outset, that our Church has no intention to intervene in the political life of our Country, something that of course would not be in line with its spiritual mission. The Church does, however, wish to share with you its thoughts and concerns about the course being taken by United Europe, in the certainty that these concerns also reflect the views of a large portion of the pious Greek People.
The Church of Greece believes in the European orientation and outlook of our Country and in the need for the experiment of the collaboration of the Peoples of Europe to succeed. At the same time, however, it strives for the preservation of our National and our cultural identity as Orthodox Greeks. Within this framework the Church of Greece, well within the time limit, sent its proposals to the Assembly, that is drafting, under the presidency of Valery Giscard d’ Estaing, the new European Constitution. Moreover, the Church has tried in various ways to inform its faithful about the procedure and the importance of the structuring of the new Europe of the 25 or even more member-States. By way of synopsis we mention here our three main proposals mentioned in this letter sent to the Assembly by the Holy Synod:
Respect for the common conscience and awareness of the European Nations in regard to the Christian roots of their diachronic and contemporary spiritual heritage is to be preserved.
The regulating of Church-State relations must be left to the Constitution and the National Law of each Member-State, as foreseen by the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, so that the distinctive culture and historical tradition of each Nation is respected.
Mr. President of the Government,
Our Church believes that the essential collaboration and convergence of the Peoples of Europe can be achieved not only by the adoption of measures ensuring a single economic or foreign policy, but also, and chiefly by the projection of the common elements in Europe’s cultural heritage. We believe that European Culture was formed and established with the Apostle St. Paul’s arrival in Macedonia, an event that we consider to be the first-fruits of contemporary European Civilization. Europe’s cultural identity is on the one hand expressed by the common cultural roots and spiritual beginnings of its Peoples, and on the other, by respect for the uniqueness and identity of each and every Nation and People. This combination of identity and distinctiveness, which is an innate element of European civilization, presupposes as its forerunner the cultural and spiritual tradition of Classical Greece and the Greek Spirit with all the various and conflicting elements that it contains. European Civilization and Culture means Greco-Roman spirit and Christian ethos. We therefore propose that the distinctive mark of the Greek Presidency should be inscribed through a declaration of respect for the Christian beginnings of Europe with an emphasis on a greater distribution and spreading of the classical texts throughout the Schools and Universities of Europe.
In this light, most eloquent is the testimony given by the well-known twentieth-century French poet and thinker, Paul Valery, concerning the three spiritual foundations of Europe. He writes characteristically in one of his works: “ Everywhere, wherever the names of Caesar, Gaius and Virgil, wherever the names of Moses and the Apostle Paul, wherever the names of Aristotle, Plato and Euclid simultaneously have meaning and authority, there is Europe. Every race and ever country that was Romanized, Christianized and that submitted itself to the discipline of the Greeks is absolutely European".
By making people aware of their common Christian origins on the one hand, we will not only help in strengthening Human Rights, but also in furthering mutual respect among the citizens and Peoples of our Continent; on the other hand this will forge even more, and on the basis of spiritual elements, the identity of Europe. For if we simply speak about human rights and freedom without any reference to Christianity, then how does Europe’s identity differ from that of, let us say, Japan? And in regard to the cultivation of classical texts, in which of course patristic texts are included, we remind you that from 2001 already there exists in this regard a relative proposal on the part of the Cultural Committee of the European Parliament. Moreover, many European scientists and educators point out today with concern the consequences of an overdeveloped growth of technology and the downgrading of the humanistic content in education. We believe, therefore, that the Greek Presidency could coordinate the competent Ministries of Education and Culture of the Member-States of the European Union so as to introduce more hours for the study of the Humanities in the schools and universities of Europe.
We also ask that you take into account our concern over the following issues, which we believe have to be faced on a pan-European level:
a) In order to ensure the future of our societies, it is necessary that we take measures to support the institution of the family and to face the demographical problem of the Peoples of Europe.
b) Our Christian faith teaches us to respect human life and to honour the sacredness of the human person. Consequently, there is urgent need for decisions to be taken on a European level, to combat the dangerous extension of arbitrary genetic experimentation, such as the terrifying thought of cloning human beings.
c) It is also necessary that we coordinate the efforts of the Governments and Societies of Europe to combat the anti-societal activities of sects and para-religions that seriously threaten human freedom and the human personality. Many European Governments, as well as the European Parliament have recently condemned the activities of these groups.
d) The overwhelming majority of the politicians and the citizens of Europe who believe in the ideals of Democracy must shield Europe from the rise of extreme tendencies and totalitarian types of ideology that not only attack human rights and freedoms, but also the Christian Faith and Tradition (e.g. neo-nazism with an orientation to reviving ancient idolatry).
e) Finally, we wish to repeat a humanitarian request that the Head of the Church of Greece has posed on other occasions as well. This request has to do with the reunification of the families of migrants from third-world countries that legally reside within the European Union. For us as a Church, the family is of central importance because it is the cradle of life. The core of this request is that the waiting period for minors to be reunited with their families be reduced to the shortest acceptable time possible.
Mr. President of the Government,
The Church of Greece is at your disposal to discuss these issues with you or with your honourable collaborators. She takes this opportunity to assure you once again that she stands by the side of the Government and that of the entire political world of our country in its efforts to achieve the full induction of the Republic of Cyprus into the European Union without preconditions detrimental to the freedom and well-being of our Greek brethren on the island.
We pray that Almighty God will crown your work with success during the Greek Presidency of the European Union, and we remain
With best wishes and high esteem
+ C H R I S T O D O U L O S
ARCHBISHOP OF ATHENS AND ALL GREECE