Notre Dame and Europe’s spiritual heritage – by Tomas Sandell

Tomas Sandell in Washington

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Reactions after Notre Dame show that Europe still cares about its spiritual heritage. Why does not the EU acknowledge this?


The collective feeling of loss and outpouring of support after the fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday has clearly revealed that the people of Europe care deeply about their spiritual heritage. The Notre Dame Cathedral is not simply a nice old building. It stands as a symbol of what has defined Europe for over 2,000 years, the Judeo-Christian worldview. Visit any European city, large or small, and what you will find in the very centre is a place of worship, a church or a synagogue.

However, when European government leaders in 2007 were to agree on the preamble of the Lisbon Treaty which would describe the heritage of Europe, they left out any reference to its Judeo-Christian roots. Looking back at European integration over the last 60 years, this is when Europe made a disastrous wrong turn which is still affecting us.

The reactions after the fire in Notre Dame speaks of a different reality. Our heritage matters. Even the Prime Minister of France acknowledges what an integral part of the soul of France Notre Dame represents. But reactions from across the European continent show that Notre Dame was more than just a French symbol; it was a European symbol of faith, hope and continuity.

With only five weeks left to the European elections we can only hope that these reactions will also transpire in to the discussions of the future of Europe. What does it mean that Europe has a Judeo-Christian heritage? How can we preserve a Jewish presence in Europe amidst rising antisemitism? How can we again become a culture that recognises the spiritual values and principles which have guided this continent for two millennia?

These are all questions that we encourage you to raise with your candidates. After the fire in Notre Dame the European elections are no longer only about climate change, migration or economic policies but about our true identity as a continent. Please join the discussion and make sure you go to the polls on 23-26 May.

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