On the occasion of being awarded The Charlemagne Prize for promotion of European integration and unity, Pope Francis delivered an address that began by wondering what had happened to the Europe that championed “human rights, democracy and freedom” and had been the “home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters” and the “the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters”?
Pope Francis also met with the EU Commission president Jean-Claude Junker met Pope Francis at the ceremony and told him: “When you take in 12 refugees, in proportion to the population of the Vatican that is more than any EU member state – you fill our hearts with new courage.”
The Pope invoked thoughts of the refugee crisis in Europe:
“To this end, we would do well to turn to the founding fathers of Europe. They were prepared to pursue alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war. Not only did they boldly conceive the idea of Europe, but they dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction. They dared to seek multilateral solutions to increasingly shared problems.”
He added that the “desire to create unity seems to be fading”.
“We, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there.”
The final section of his speech reflected on the capacity for dialogue and the culture of dialogue.
“We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to.”
The Pope finished a vision for Europe:
“I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life.
“I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter.
“I dream of a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless.
“I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being …
“I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all.
“I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.”