The European Union was forced to retract a controversial document after the Vatican accused Brussels of trying to cancel Christmas by “banning” certain Christian words.
The manual, which is supposed to be used for communications in EU institutions, and which is purportedly aimed at avoiding discrimination and promoting inclusivity, has been withdrawn, because it recommended banning the word “Christmas” in communications.
The controversial document, titled “Union of Equality,” recommended the expression “holiday period” instead of “Christmas period.” The document even proposed that traditionally Christian names such as “Mary” and “John” not be used anymore.
According to the European Commission, the intention was not to cancel Christmas or Christianity itself but to replace words that “could be offensive.” Some examples cited were gender-referencing words such as “Man-made” and “ladies and gentlemen,” which should be replaced by with more neutral phrases like “man-made” and “dear colleagues.”
The internal guide for inclusive communication encouraged European Union officials to “Update your language” and avoid expressions considered stigmatizing based on gender, sexual identities, ethnic origins and culture — even if that meant not using the word Christmas when discussing the most basic Christian belief in the birth of Christ.
Commissioner for Equality Withdraws Manual Canceling Christmas
Helena Dalli, the EU’s “Commissioner for Equality,” announced the withdrawal of the manual on Tuesday, noting that the document will be revised to reflect concerns raised by several parties.
The document was part of a plan championed by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to make sure that “everyone is valued and recognized” across the bloc.
The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, called for respecting the rightful differences of others — including Christians. “I believe that the concern to erase all discrimination is right. It is a path of which we have become more aware and which naturally must be translated into practice. However, in my opinion, this is not the way to achieve this goal. Because in the end we risk destroying, annihilating the person.”
Parolin stated, “There is the cancellation of our roots, the Christian dimension of our Europe, especially with regard to Christian festivals. Of course, we know that Europe owes its existence and its identity to many influences, but we certainly cannot forget that one of the main influences, if not the main one, was Christianity itself.”
The Cardinal referenced Pope Francis’ recent travels to Greece in considering the recognition of European roots. The Pope’s video message to Greece “emphasizes precisely this European dimension: that is, going to the sources of Europe, therefore rediscovering those its constitutive elements. Certainly, Greek culture is one of these elements,” Parolin stated.
“Also, it seems to me that this journey comes at just the right time; it is a journey that reminds us precisely of these fundamental dimensions that cannot be erased,” Parolin said. “We must rediscover the capacity to integrate all these realities without ignoring them, without fighting them, without eliminating and marginalizing them.”
A series of politicians on the right, including the former president of the European parliament Antonio Tajani, a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, jumped on the issue to voice their opposition to the “absurd” advice.
Inclusion Does Not Deny Christian Roots
“Inclusion does not mean denying the Christian roots of (the EU)”, Tajani tweeted.
In response to the backlash to cancel Christmas and even references to Christian saints’ names, Dalli, who had tweeted a picture of herself with the guidelines on October 26 along with comments speaking of her pride in launching the document, issued an apology.
Dali stated “My initiative to draft guidelines as an internal document for communication by commission staff in their duties was intended to achieve an important aim: to illustrate the diversity of European culture and showcase the inclusive nature of the European commission towards all walks of life and beliefs of European citizens.
“However, the version of the guidelines published does not adequately serve this purpose. It is not a mature document and does not meet all commission quality standards. The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”