The Pope, who - like his predecessor John Paul II - often calls for a mention of God and Christianity in the European Constitution, said leaders could not exclude values that helped forge the "very soul" of the continent.
 
Christian heritage
 

EU marks 50th anniversary

European leaders set to approve "Berlin Declaration"

He said: "If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome the governments of the union want to get closer to their citizens, how can they exclude an element as essential to the identity of Europe as Christianity, in which the vast majority of its people continue to identify.

 

"It is no surprise that today's Europe, while it purports to be a community of values, seems to increasingly contest the existence of absolute and universal values.

 

"Does not this unique form of apostasy of itself, even before God, lead it [Europe] to doubt its very identity?"

 

Apostasy is a total desertion of or departure from one's religion.

 

"It is no surprise that today's Europe, while it purports to be a community of values, seems to increasingly contest the existence of absolute and universal values

Pope Benedict

Merkel to promote Christian references

 

Merkel aims to re-launch the EU constitution and last month made a plea for the bloc to include references to Christian roots.

 

Plans to include such a reference in the original EU treaty, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, were blocked by Jacques Chirac, the French president.

 

Merkel, as holder of the EU's rotating presidency, is now in the process of reviving the constitution.

 

Comments from Merkel, the daughter of a pastor, have encouraged religious leaders around Europe to redouble efforts to modify the constitution.

 

Romano Prodi, Italy's prime minister, also said he had pushed for inclusion of Catholic roots in the European Constitution, but that the main task ahead for Catholics was to carry on a dialogue with religions like Islam and Judaism.

 

Prodi on Saturday, said: "I fought silently and for long for the insertion of Christian roots in the European Constitution."

 

EU celebrations

 

The signing on Sunday of the Berlin Declaration is to be livened up during the weekend with cultural events throughout the German capital.

 

Museums will open their doors to the public into the small hours on Sunday while the city's discotheques will fire up a European Club Night.

 

And a festival at the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of European division, then unity after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, will feature national delicacies from each of the member states and a rock concert.