A Soul for Europe? : Contributions of European Churches to the Forum of the Convention on the Future of Europe

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Title: A Soul for Europe? : Contributions of European Churches to the Forum of the Convention on the Future of Europe
Author: Krause, Johannes Christiaan
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, teologinen tiedekunta, Käytännöllisen teologian laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Department of Practical Theology
Helsingfors universitet, teologiska fakulteten, Institutionen för praktisk teologi
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2007
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe20072001
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Church Sociology (Church and Social Studies)
Abstract: The aim of this research was to study how European churches contributed to the shaping of the Constitutional Treaty during the work of the Convention on the future of Europe through the public discussion forum, established by the Convention for this specific purpose in the years 2002 2003. In particular, this study sought to uncover the areas of interest brought up by the churches in their contributions, the objectives they pursued, and the approaches and arguments they employed to reach those objectives. The data for this study comprised all official submissions by European churches and church alliances to the Forum, totalling 21 contributions. A central criterion for inclusion of the data was that the organization can reasonably be assumed to represent the official position of one or more Christian churches within the European Union before the 2004 expansion. The contributing churches and organizations represent the vast majority of Christians in Europe. The data was analyzed using primarily qualitative content analysis. The research approach was a combination of abductive and inductive inference. Based on the analysis a two-fold theoretical framework was adopted, focusing on theories of public religion, secularization and deprivatization of religion, and of legitimation and collective identity. The main areas of interest found in the contributions of the churches were the value foundation of the European Union, which is demanded to coherently permeate all policies and actions of the EU, and the social dimension of Europe, which must be given equal status to the political and economic dimensions. In both areas the churches claim significant experience and expertise, which they want to see recognized in the Constituional Treaty through a formally guaranteed status for churches and religious communities in the EU. In their contributions the churches show a strong determination to secure a significant role for both religion and religious communities in the public life of Europe. As for the role of religion, they point out to its potential as a motivating and cohesive force in society and as a building block for a collective European identity, which is still missing. Churches also pursue a substantial public role for themselves beyond the spiritual dimension, permeating the secular areas of the social, political and economic dimensions. The arguments in suppport of such role are embedded in their interest and expertise in spiritual and other fundamental values and their broad involvement in providing social services. In this context churches use expressions inclusive of all religions and convictions, albeit clearly advocating the primacy of Europe's Christian heritage. Based on their historical role, their social involvement and their spiritual mission they use the public debate on the Constitutional Treaty to gain formal legitimacy for the public status of religion and religious communities, both nationally and on a European level, through appropriate provisions in the constitutional text. In return they offer the European Union ways of improving its own legitimacy by reducing the democratic and ideological deficit of the EU and advancing the development a collective European identity.
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