God left out of EU constitution
In a move that will elicit a mixed response from Christians, mention of God has been omitted from the proposed introduction to the EU's new constitution.
The preamble, written by ValÈry Giscard d'Estaing and colleagues in the European convention, is meant to provide a quotable introduction - akin to the "We the people" of the US constitution - which can be studied by children and memorised by all.
Some Christian groups lobbied hard to have God mentioned in the introduction, and the news is expected to disappoint, amongst others, the Pope.
Mention of God matters greatly to countries with strong religious traditions, such as Poland and Slovakia, which join the EU next year, and Italy and Germany who are among the founders.
However, Christians from more radical Christian traditions who believe that the idea of a non-religious state is more in keeping with a biblical view of Government, will not be downhearted.
The preamble also includes wording that many Christians committed to peace and justice will have sympathy with.
The English version states; "Conscious that Europe is a continent that has brought forth civilisation; that its inhabitants, arriving in successive waves since the first ages of mankind, have gradually developed the values underlying humanism: equality of persons, freedom, respect for reason."
"Doubting northerners" - the Netherlands, the Nordics and deeply agnostic Britain - were said to have been mindful of the continent's 10 million Muslims and other religious minorities and called for religion to be kept out of the project.
The convention also received submissions from secular groups. Some of the latter pointed out that God had not always been on the side of the angels.
"Many of our values," said the Spanish socialist Josep Borrell Fontelles, "were forged against the church. And when it comes to democracy, the rights of man and equality, God is only a recent convert."
The new preamble:
"Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people - Thucydides
Conscious that Europe is a continent that has brought forth civilisation; that its inhabitants, arriving in successive waves since the first ages of mankind, have gradually developed the values underlying humanism: equality of persons, freedom, respect for reason.
Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, which, nourished first by the civilisations of Greece and Rome, characterised by spiritual impulse always present in its heritage and later by the philosophical currents of the Enlightenment, has embedded within the life of society its perception of the central role of the human person and his inviolable and inalienable rights, and of respect for law."
"Believing that reunited Europe intends to continue along this path of civilisation, progress and prosperity, for the good of all its inhabitants, including the weakest and most deprived; that it wishes to remain a continent open to culture, learning and social progress; and that it wishes to deepen the democratic nature of its public life and to strive for peace, justice and solidarity throughout the world."