Title: Quale "politica"religiosa in Europa e nel Mediterraneo?
Publisher: Presses Universitaires, D'Aix Marseille, 2004
Quale "politica" religiosa in Europa e nel Mediterraneo? Orizzonti e prospettive is the title of the book published in 2004 by Presses Universitaires d'Aix-Marseille in its law and religions series. This series is directed by Blandine Pont-Cheline, maître de conférence at the Faculty of Law at the University of Aix-Marseille. This book contains some of the papers given at the conference of May 2003 under the dual direction of the Institute of Law and Religious History of the same university and the Observatory on the Phenomenon of Religion of the Institute of Political Studies of Aix-en-Provence. Organised by Blandine Pont-Chélini and Professor Bruno Etienne, the conference ended with an extremely important paper by Professor Silvio Ferrari of Milan (pp. 283-290).
In Ferrari's view, the process of the secularisation of private life remains notable, although in France and in Italy, for example, public life and institutions have been undergoing secularisation at different speeds, which at times have been rather more bland. In Italy, the state and the regional governments have begun to finance private schools, which are in large part Catholic, and we should not forget the large number of concordats signed between the Holy see and many States in central and eastern Europe. Reference should also be made to the new concordat signed with Portugal in 2004. Have we, therefore, been witnessing a re-politicisation of religion, as José Casanova wrote in 1994 and Gilles Kepel asserted in 1990? In Année canonique I published a study on 'The Creation of a Request for Dialogue at the Highest Level between the Church and the French State on 13 February 22', an initiative of the Socialist government of Lionel Jospin that was carried on by the Raffarin government.
Identity: Ferrari asks whether Western Europe is becoming secular without becoming secularist, as though cultural attachments that can certainly involve religious signs are increasingly being taken into consideration. But signs of this kind, he says, are increasingly becoming flags of identity rather than new or traditional forms of adherence to a religious denomination or religious value. The Catholic Church, he argues, has understood the need to emphasise its own cultural contribution with greater force in this context, most obviously as regards the establishment of the roots of the European Union. Thus Ferrari writes: 'It is difficult to deny that Christianity, with the Greco-Roman inheritance and the principles of the thinkers of the Enlightenment, forms the basis of European civilisation' (p. 285).
Pluralism: religious pluralism is increasing in Europe without generating clearer regimes of separation between states and religions, where a stronger pluralism would have been able to ask for greater equality of treatment between the religions. Religions have acquired more independence in relation to states, although they often enjoy in relation to these states a regime based upon recognition rather than upon separation on the French model.
Dialogue between identities in the Mediterranean: in Ferrari's view, if a European model for relations between religions and the state can be outlined and if this has to be presented as a system of values, three elements seem to emerge:
1) first of all, the protection of the individual rights of religious freedom
2) secondly the distinction between religion and politics with a prohibition on a religion confiscating public space this reminds every country in Europe of the principle dear to the political culture of the United States of America, namely the non-intervention of the state in the government of each religion, but on the condition that public order and health are safeguarded
3) and lastly collaboration between states and religions.
At the present time in Europe collaboration between each state and the Muslim communities that have settled in the national territory still encounters certain problems. The definitions of the Koran and the civil definitions of Muslim representatives who discuss matters with the government remain difficult and the independence or otherwise of these confessional communities in relation to extra-European political powers remains a reason for concern for governments and public opinion in Europe.
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