The Middle East Times reports that Pope Benedict urged European Union leaders on Saturday not to "neglect the peoples' identity ... formed from a set of values that Christianity has helped to forge" as the leaders met in Berlin to mark the EU's 50th anniversary.
He made his remarks as he received participants of a conference organised by European bishops here to mark half a century since the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which laid the foundation for today's EU.
The pope denounced what he called a "peculiar form of apostasy," saying Europe, while wanting to present itself "as a community of values, seems to increasingly contest the existence of universal and absolute values."
For Catholics, the word "apostasy" signifies the desertion of faith, which had been one of the three unpardonable sins in the early years of the Church.
Vatican observers called the speech "very harsh and very dark."
Pope Benedict also spoke of Europe's "pragmatic attitude that regularly justifies compromises on essential human values."
He urged conscientious objections to laws that allow for abortions, euthanasia, or other issues that violate "fundamental human rights."
He said Christian values "that represent the soul of the continent must remain" part of Europe if it wants to be an example to the rest of the world.
Martyrs represent hope
Meanwhile, speaking yesterday, Pope Benedict has recalled the 1980 slaying of El Salvador archbishop and human rights activist Oscar Romero, and praised those who lost their lives in carrying out their mission for the Church, the International Herald Tribune reports.
Benedict reminded pilgrims in St Peter's Square that Saturday had been the anniversary of Archbishop Romero's killing, and that the church had dedicated the day to prayer and fasting for missionary martyrs.
He described they martyrs as "bishops, priests, other men and women clergy and lay people cut down in carrying out their mission of evangelization and human promotion."
Benedict said martyrs represent hope for the world "because they testify that the love of Christ is stronger than violence and hate."
Water an inalienable right
In another story, Pope Benedict described water an "inalienable right" and said it is a moral and political imperative to everybody with knowledge and technology to contribute in bringing an end to scarcity of water, CISA News Africa reports.
In a message sent on his behalf by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, during the UN World Water Day celebrated last week, the Pope said that there is a "shared responsibility in managing this precious resource and enabling access by all, especially those living in conditions of poverty."
"We are all called to modify our way of life in an educational effort capable of returning the worth and respect merited by this common resource for humanity", the message further said.
Pope warns of apostasy as Europe throws 50th birthday bash">(Middle East Times, 25/3/07)
Christianity not mentioned in Berlin Declaration (Catholic World News, 25/3/07)
Pope Calls Water an Inalienable Right (CISA News Africa, 23/3/07)
Pope recalls anniversary of 1980 slaying of popular archbishop in El Salvador (International Herald Tribune, 25/3/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The Berlin Declaration: full text (Times Online, 23/3/07)
Oscar Romero (Wikipedia)
Remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero (Creighton University)
26 Mar 2007