Vice President of European Parliament Criticises Attitude towards Churches

The European Parliament (EP) has come under fire from one of its most senior officials, who criticised the attitude of the EP towards traditional churches.

The Vice President of the European Parliament, Mario Mauro, said in an interview with Russia's Interfax news agency that the EP had an "unfair policy" towards traditional churches, Catholic newspaper The Universal reported.

He also accused MEPs of confusing "religion with fundamentalism".

"Over the last ten years, the Europarliament has accused the Catholic and Orthodox churches of violating human rights on more than 30 occasions - but not once has it brought similar accusations against states such as China or Cuba", said the Italian Mauro.

He also warned of the damaging effect that opposition to churches could have on efforts to unite Europe.

"Certain countries are trying to build a society without God, and this is bringing very serious problems. Those who oppose the participation of churches in European public life may become a source of destruction for the political project of a united Europe," he said.

The EP Vice President made the comments while in Moscow for a conference on "Europe at a turning point".

He made reference to cases of anti-church discrimination and also the recent accusations of the European Court that the Orthodox monastic centre at Mount Athos in Greece was in violation of human rights by excluding women.

"It's obviously a pretext - one should respect the religious right of monks to live in solitude", Mauro said. "The main reason for rulings like this is that many people are convinced Europe should be built without religion, and that this strategy is needed for opposing fundamentalism. But they confuse religion and fundamentalism. We are against fundamentalism, but we support religion".

Mauro also said that Europe faced joint challenges from moral relativism and religious fundamentalism, and should remember the EU's flag - twelve stars on a blue background - symbolised "the intercession of the Virgin Mary" against "a circle of the twelve apostles".