Christmas this year marks the first time in its history that the European Parliament has allowed a Nativity scene to be set up at its headquarters in Brussels. Until now, officials of the European institution had considered it “potentially offensive.”
The efforts of Isabel Benjumea, a member in the EU’s House of Representatives from Spain, were key to finally having a Nativity scene on display at the institution.
When she was elected in 2019, Benjumea tried her first year in office to prepare the groundwork for a gift of a Nativity scene to the parliament that would be exhibited during the Christmas season. However, she ran into European bureaucracy and deadlines.
The following year she began to take the necessary steps. The response could not have been more disheartening.
A Nativity scene could not be installed, she was informed by the office of the President of Parliament, because it was “potentially offensive” to nonbelievers.
“This had become a kind of crusade because it seemed unacceptable to me to ignore the Christian roots of Europe,” the parliamentarian told Spanish newspaper ABC.
Finally, this year the effort had the support of the Maltese president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, although the Nativity scene has only been “authorized as a special exhibition,” which may or may not be renewed in the future.
The Nativity scene on display in the European Parliament is from Murcia, a region in southeastern Spain with a great tradition of Nativity scenes and imagery.
Artisans from the workshop of Jesús Griñán created the Nativity scene.
In his Aug. 24, 2003, Angelus address, St. John Paul II noted that he was prayerfully following the drafting of the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union.
The pontiff said that “the Catholic Church is convinced that the Gospel of Christ, which has been a unifying element of the European peoples for many centuries, should be and continue to be today too an inexhaustible source of spirituality and fraternity. Taking note of this is for the benefit of all, and an explicit recognition of the Christian roots of Europe in the treaty represents the principle guarantee for the continent’s future.”
However, the pope’s efforts were ignored.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI strongly criticized the EU for excluding any mention of God or the continent’s Christian roots in the institution’s declarations on the 50th anniversary of its founding.