VATICAN CITY — Calls by a British minister who is a Muslim to follow the Pope’s example and reject intolerant secularisation in Europe have made the Vatican happy, a spokesman said.
Lady Warsi, the Conservative Party chairwoman, made her comments in a speech at the Vatican on February 14 as she led a delegation of six ministers set to hold talks with Catholic officials and meet the Pope the following day.
“We are really happy about this important visit, which continues the dialogue that started with the Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom in September,” said Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi.
“The Holy See is delighted about the visit of such a strong delegation,” said Nigel Baker, the UK ambassador to the Vatican. “The level at which the delegation is being received shows the value the Holy See places on the strong relationship with the UK.”
The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article by Warsi on its front page on February 14 in which the Muslim minister said the UK government needed to work closely around the world with the Vatican because its vast network of priests, diplomats and bishops made it “an influential voice in today’s important ethical, moral and intellectual debates”.
The speech Warsi gave trainee Vatican diplomats on Tuesday gave strong backing to some of the campaigns that Pope Benedict has made central to his papacy and would not look out of place being given by a staunchly Catholic Italian politician.
Warsi approvingly referred to the Pope’s defence of the “unrenounceable Christian roots of [our] culture and civilisation”, which, she added, “shine through our politics, our public life, our culture, our economics, our language and our architecture”.
Picking up on a long-time Vatican complaint, Warsi lamented the fact that there is “not even a word about Christianity in the preface of the European constitution” because of “what the Holy Father called ‘the increasing marginalisation of religion’ during his speech in Westminster Hall”.
By asserting that “for centuries, Christianity in Europe has been inspiring, motivating, strengthening and improving our societies”, Warsi echoed Benedict’s claim that religion is an ally of freedom and an enemy of tyranny.
Warsi said the Catholic church was instrumental in “toppling communism” and “securing peace in Northern Ireland”. Many Catholic schools in the UK outperform lay schools, she added.
In the speech, Warsi backed the Vatican’s fight to allow crucifixes to be displayed in public buildings.
“Politicians need to give faith a seat at the table in public life,” she concluded.