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Holy See: No Official Line on Turkey in European Union
Says Vatican Secretary for Relations with States

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See has no official position on Turkey's entry to the European Union, says the Vatican's secretary for relations with states.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti today said he believes that the Benedict XVI's visit to that country will show Muslims the esteem he feels for them.

In response to a question by a journalist in the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, Archbishop Mamberti clarified that "the Holy See has not expressed an 'official' position on this question."

"Obviously, it follows the question with great interest and sees that the debate which has been taking place for some time and the positions for and against Turkey's admission to the European Union manifest that what is at stake is very important," said the 54-year-old Vatican official.

"Of course the Holy See believes that, in case of adherence, the country must respond to all the political criteria established by the Copenhagen Summit of December 2002," he added.

With specific reference to religious liberty, the prelate specified that Ankara must respect the conditions established by the decision of the Council of Europe, on Jan. 23, 2006, on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership with Turkey.

'04 interview

Before he became Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave an interview to Le Figaro magazine on Aug. 13, 2004, in which he gave his personal views on this issue. He said that, historically, Turkey has never been part of Europe.

"Turkey," said Cardinal Ratzinger, "which considers itself a secular state, but with the foundation of Islam, might try to put into practice a cultural continent with neighboring Arab countries and thus become protagonist of a culture, with its own identity, but in communion with the great humanist values which we should all recognize."

"This idea, is not opposed to forms of partnership and close and friendly collaboration with Europe and allows for the emergence of a united force that would oppose every form of fundamentalism," the cardinal suggested at the time.

Archbishop Mamberti acknowledged that, in the wake of Muslim criticism of the Pope's Sept. 12 address in Regensburg, the Holy Father on this trip will show his esteem for Muslims, his desire for dialogue, and "the possibility of collaboration at the service of man and his cause, surmounting incomprehension and misunderstandings."