WASHINGTON, May 28 (UPI) -- A draft European Union constitution prepared for submission to the members states contains no specific reference to God, or to Europe's Christian roots, despite strong pressure from conservatives, and from the Vatican, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Wednesday.
The document, of which ANSA has obtained an advance copy, now goes to the 25 member countries for parliamentary approval. The document attempts to compromise by referring in the preamble to Europe's religious, cultural, and humanist heritage, said the agency.
The question whether the text should mention God, or Christianity caused one of the most heated debates in the preparatory body, the Convention for the Future of Europe, consisting of representatives of all the EU member states and soon-to-be states, and chaired by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
According to diplomatic sources, liberal members ruled out even a token mention of God in the preamble of the constitution. But the Vatican mounted a strong diplomatic effort to have the role of Christianity in Europe included in the text.
Pope John Paul II weighed into the debate on several occasions, pressing the point with visiting European leaders and in several public statements. If the EU would not identify itself as a Christian institution, he was quoted as telling Giscard d'Estaing, it could at least recognize "the decisive contribution of Christianity and Christian vision to the history and culture of various European states."
What the pope wanted, a Vatican spokesman said, was "a clear reference to God and the Christian faith to be formulated in the European constitution.
All 15 EU members and 10 countries due to join next year are formally Christian states, although most -- including Italy, France, and Spain -- make no reference to their Christian roots in their respective constitutions. Secularists at the convention contended that a clearly pluralist modern Europe had moved beyond a need to include a reference to a particular religion or any religion at all.
When former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, the representative of Ireland (whose constitution opens with a solemn invocation to the Holy Ghost) formally proposed including a mention of Christianity, the proposal failed to muster enough support.
Sources said several European countries were nervous about creating resentment among their large Islamic immigrant populations.