EU Commission preferred "holiday" above "Christmas" but turns back from it


European Union


A Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. Photo EPA, Fabio Frustaci

It was in the name of inclusiveness that the European Commission asked not to use the word "Christmas" and even not to mention the names Mary or John. Especially the Vatican protested. The Commission withdrew the internal report.

No less than an "annulment of our Christian roots". That was what number 2 of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, called the Commission's plan. "Erasing Christmas is not the way to fight against discrimination", says Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Vatican. The French Catholic portal Famille Chretienne reports this.

The European Commission asked civil servants not to use specific terms, including "Christmas", in an internal document. The handbook with "Guidelines on Inclusive Communion" was presented late October.

Dear colleagues

A document commissioned by Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality, suggested the use of certain expressions. According to the paper, it would thus be preferable to use the terms "holiday period" than "Christmas period". Likewise, in a meeting, the words "Ladies and Gentlemen" should be avoided in favour of a neutral formula: "Dear colleagues".

A crane lifts a Christmas Tree at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. Photo AFP, Alberto Pizzoli

These revelations sparked a strong reaction from the Vatican. In an interview on Vatican News, Cardinal Parolin said that the "concern to erase all discrimination is just", but that the European Commission was not in the direction to achieve this.

Parolin called for respecting the rightful differences of others. "It is the differentiation that characterises our world. Unfortunately, the tendency is to homogenise everything, not knowing how to respect even rightful differences." Further, he mentioned "the forgetfulness of what is a reality. And whoever goes against reality puts themself in serious danger. (…) Destroying the difference and destroying the roots means precisely to destroy the person."

Ensure everyone is valued

On Twitter, Commissioner Helena Dalli made a point of responding to "concerns" on Tuesday. She promised to review them and update her document soon.

In the foreword of the guidelines, she writes that the handbook is to "ensure that everyone in our materials is valued (…), regardless of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation", says Dalli.

Anti-religious bias

The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomed the withdrawal of the guidelines. COMECE respected the right of the European Commission to organise its communication and recognised the importance of equality and non-discrimination, it could not avoid the impression that some passages of the draft document were marked by an "anti-religious bias".

The president of COMECE, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich: "Neutrality cannot mean relegating religion to the private sphere. Christmas is not only part of European religious traditions but also of European reality. Respecting religious diversity cannot lead to the paradoxical consequence of suppressing the religious element from public discourse."

The Italian newspaper Avvenire speaks about an "obsession with neutrality, which in turn ends up offending and discriminating".



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