Jan 25, 2022

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After widespread criticism (including from the Pope) the European Union retracted a manual for communications that claims to promote religious and gender “inclusion” but which many believe is anti-religion.

Union of Equality

The 32-page internal document called the “Union of Equality” was released last month as an initiative of Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, President of the European Commission to ensure that “everyone is valued and recognized”. The manual for EU officials was intended as a guide for how they should communicate in press briefings and social media. It recommended that EU representatives “update your language” by using the expression “holiday period” instead of “Christmas period.” It gave as an example replacing the phrase, “Christmas time can be stressful” with the phrase, “Holiday times can be stressful”.

It also suggested using the phrase “first name” rather than “Christian name” and using names “Malika and Julio” instead of “Mary and John” to describe an “international couple”.

The document also urged EU officials to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian”, adding that  “not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates”.

The manual also instructed to avoid gender-referencing words such as “Man-made” and “ladies and gentlemen,” which should be replaced with more neutral phrases like “man-made” and “dear colleagues.” Words such as “chairman” should be replaced by “chairperson”, and “policeman” or “policewoman” substituted for “police officer”, the guide said. It also recommended the word “stewardess” be avoided in preference of “flight attendant”, and “principal” be used instead of “headmaster” or “headmistress”.

In a memo questioning the manual, it was suggested that “the cancellation of words discriminates against a faith that is widespread in Europe” and therefore “achieve[s] the opposite result to that declared, i.e. exclusion rather than inclusion”.

Helena Dalli, the EU’s “Commissioner for Equality,” announced the withdrawal of the manual on Tuesday, noting that the document will be revised.

Pope Francis: “Watered-down secularism”

Pope Francis reacted strongly to the EU statement, comparing it to other anti-religious ideologies. In a statement on Monday, the pontiff said, “In history many, many dictatorships have tried to do it. Think of Napoleon: from there… Think of the Nazi dictatorship, the communist one… it is a fashion of a watered-down secularism, distilled water… But this is something that throughout hasn’t worked.”

“The European Union must take in hand the ideals of the founding fathers, which were ideals of unity, of greatness, and be careful not to take the path of ideological colonization,” the pope told reporters. “This could end up dividing the countries and [causing] the European Union to fail. The European Union must respect each country as it is structured within, the variety of countries, and not want to make them uniform.”

“Each country has its own peculiarity, but each country is open to the others,” the Pope continued. “The European Union: its sovereignty, the sovereignty of brothers in a unity that respects the individuality of each country. And be careful not to be vehicles of ideological colonization. That is why [the issue] of Christmas is an anachronism.”

At a subsequent press conference, Pope Francis explained that the flaw in Nazism was that it was “populism that defended national values.”

“[Nazism] ended up annihilating democratic life, indeed life itself with the death of the people, in becoming a bloody dictatorship,” Pope Francis said. “Today I will say, because you asked about right-wing governments, let’s be careful that governments — I’m not saying right-wing or left-wing, I’m saying something else — let’s be careful that governments don’t slip down this road of populism, of so-called political ‘populisms,’ which have nothing to do with popularism, which is the free expression of peoples, who express themselves with their identity, their folklore, their values, their art…This happens when there is a superpower that dictates economic, cultural, and social behavior to the other countries,” Pope Francis said.