The Vatican’s Secretary of State on Tuesday criticized a European Commission communications guide discouraging staff from using the word “Christmas.”
In an interview published by Vatican News on Nov. 30, Cardinal Pietro Parolin suggested that the document was going “against reality” by downplaying Europe’s Christian roots.
He was commenting on a 32-page internal document called “#UnionOfEquality. European Commission Guidelines for Inclusive Communication,” launched on Oct. 26 by EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli.
Dalli announced on Nov. 30 that she was withdrawing the guidelines, saying that they “clearly need more work.”
The Italian newspaper Il Giornale reported on Nov. 28 that the guide urged employees at the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian.”
“Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates,” the document said.
The guide encouraged officials based in the Belgian capital, Brussels, and Luxembourg to avoid a phrase such as “Christmas time can be stressful” and instead say “Holiday times can be stressful.”
It also recommended using the term “first name,” rather than “Christian name,” and said that when presenting hypothetical examples, officials should “not only choose names that are typically from one religion.”
Instead of “Maria and John are an international couple,” the guide recommended saying “Malika and Julio are an international couple.”
Parolin told Vatican News that the intention to avoid discrimination was laudable.
“But, in my opinion, this is certainly not the way to achieve this goal. Because in the end, it risks destroying, annihilating the person, in two main directions,” he said.
“The first is the diversity that characterizes our world. Unfortunately, the tendency is to homogenize everything, not knowing how to respect the rightful differences, which naturally must not become an adversarial issue or a source of discrimination, but must be integrated in order to build a full and integral humanity.”
He went on: “The second is forgetting what is a reality. And whoever goes against reality puts himself in serious danger. And then there is the cancelation of our roots, especially as regards Christian holidays, the Christian dimension of our Europe, too.”
“Of course, we know that Europe owes its existence and its identity to many contributions, but we certainly cannot forget that one of the main contributions, if not the main one, was Christianity itself. Therefore, destroying the diversity and destroying the roots means precisely to destroy the person.”
The advice concerning the word “Christmas” appeared in a section of the document called “Cultures, lifestyles or beliefs.”
Under the heading “Dos and Don’ts,” it said: “Consider the diversity of cultures, lifestyles, religions and socio-economic backgrounds in the composition of panels you organize, when inviting participants to events, and when selecting testing panels, focus groups, and your own communication teams.”
“Make space in your visual communication for different kinds of cultures, celebrations and rituals that are popular in different parts of the EU and in different communities.”
On Tuesday, Helena Dalli acknowledged concerns about the document, which she described as a “work in progress.”
“We are looking into these concerns with the view of addressing them in an updated version of the guidelines,” she wrote on her Twitter account on Nov. 30.
In an attached European Commission statement, she said: “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.”
Cardinal Parolin said that Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus and Greece this week would take the pope to “the wellsprings of Europe.”
“So 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,” he told Vatican News.
“We must rediscover the ability to integrate all these realities without ignoring them, without fighting them, without eliminating them and marginalizing them.”