“A tree without roots is just a piece of wood.” European Parliamentary Plenary debate

During its plenary session in Strasbourg this week, the European Parliament debated the European Commission Guidelines on inclusive language which circulated earlier this year. The topical debate took place Wednesday, 15 December 2021. The debate on this important topic was put on the plenary agenda by the EPP Group in the EU Parliament.

Fr Sorin Selaru, Director of the Representation Office of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions, said that it is somewhat unprecedented in the history of the European Parliament's plenary sessions to debate especially Christianity and the Christian values that have marked European civilization: “But I experienced this as an opportunity to defend and confess Christianity publicly, after an attack conspicuously dressed in the tempting clothes of inclusive language and equality.” The European Commission’s unfortunate document has further polarized European society at a time already marked by numerous crises and shortcomings.

Almost 40 MEPs have presented their points of view in their interventions. Mr. Margaritis Schinas, Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life and Vice-President of the European Commission, was present and spoke on behalf of the Commission. Unfortunately, Ms. Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, responsible for drafting and circulating these internal guidelines on inclusive language, has not been present for questioning, a fact criticized by many MEPs.

Mr. Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party group, opened the debate by stating the importance of manifesting the religious symbols and holidays out in the open. He also expressed his Christian beliefs and concern at the fact that “faith is squeezed out of the public sphere.”

As a representative of the Commission, Mr. Margaritis Schinas has said that the internal document did not serve its intended purpose, nor meet the Commission’s standards. For this reason, it was withdrawn by the institution. Mr. Schinas underscored that anyone has the right to feel included, but we have to respect the principle of diversity upon which the European Union was founded and that we have to feel proud of 2000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition in Europe. He also mentioned the Extraordinary Meeting with religious leaders which took place last week and the powerful insights gained following that event.

The Romanian MEPs who intervened: Mr. Dacian Ciolos (Renew Europe), Mr. Loránt Vincze and Mr. Ioan Rares Bogdan (EPP) have all defended the European Christian identity as that which unites and builds Europe, not divides it. That is why they publicly confessed their faith in God, their joy in celebrating Christmas and other Christian holidays, and firmly rejected any attempt to impose clichés of thought or expression. “Christianity is part of our culture, heritage and identity. This is what we should bring forward, not trump on our values”, said Dacian Ciolos.

There were also interventions from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D), who tried either to defend the Commission’s internal document or to show that it is not appropriate to make such a fuss over it. But the debate was dominated by voices that defended the importance of Christianity for Europe, reaffirmed the presence of Christian values in the public sphere and European institutions and demanded respect for Christian holidays. Being a lively and passionate event, there were several dissenting voices that did not agree with the relevance of the subject and instead argued for different topics.

Mr Margaritis Schinas concluded the debate by pointing out that the EU’s cultural and religious heritage is our strength and we must defend and cherish it, and wished all those present in the hemicycle a “Merry Christmas”.

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