In a recently leaked guidance titled “Union of Equality,” European Union leaders advised members to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian” during the Christmas season. To that end, the 30-page document, released by the EU equality commissioner, Helena Dalli, in late October, advised staff, “Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates.” Instead of saying, “Christmas time,” it instead recommended saying, “Holiday times.”
The guidelines also said members should try to avoid using names like “Maria and John” that originate in Christianity, and instead incorporate multicultural options like “Malika and Julio.”
In the face of widespread outcry and the censure of international figures, EU leadership backtracked. Dalli issued a public apology on November 30, saying, “The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”
Still, Pope Francis blasted the recommendations during a Dec. 6 papal press conference on a flight back to Rome, calling them an “anachronism” of “watered-down secularism.”
“In history many, many dictatorships have tried to do so,” he said of governments stripping religious language, adding, “Think of Napoleon: from there… Think of the Nazi dictatorship, the communist one.”
The pope went on to characterize the erasure of specifically Christian terms as “ideological colonization.”
But this makes me think of something, talking about the European Union, which I believe is necessary: the European Union must take in hand the ideals of the founding fathers, which were ideals of unity, of greatness, and be careful not to take the path of ideological colonisation. This could end up dividing the countries and [causing] the European Union to fail.
The European Union must respect each country as it is structured within, the variety of countries, and not want to make them uniform. I don’t think it will do that, it wasn’t its intention, but be careful, because sometimes they come, and they throw projects like this one out there … Each country has its own peculiarity, but each country is open to the others. The European Union: its sovereignty, the sovereignty of brothers in a unity that respects the individuality of each country. And be careful not to be vehicles of ideological colonisation.
The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, also slammed the guidance, calling it a “cancellation of our roots,” and saying that such directives effectively work to deny the historical impact of Christianity on Europe.
“Of course, we know that Europe owes its existence and its identity to many influences,” he said, “but we certainly cannot forget that one of the main influences, if not the main one, was Christianity itself.”
Italy’s conservative former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini joined the criticism, mockingly tweeting, “Mary, the mother. John, the father. Long live the holy Christmas … I hope that in Europe, no one will be offended.”