Europe, arise from your slumber

Candid assessment

Pope Francis delivered a blunt wake-up call to Europe in his address to the EU Parliament this week. Here is the full text of his message of admonishment, hope and encouragement.

- America magazine

I thank you for inviting me to address this institution which is fundamental to the life of the European Union, and for giving me this opportunity to speak, through you, to the more than five-hundred million citizens whom you represent in the twenty-eight Member States. I am especially grateful to you, Mr President, for your warm words of welcome in the name of the entire assembly.

My visit comes more than a quarter of a century after that of Pope John Paul II. Since then, much has changed throughout Europe and the world as a whole. The opposing blocs which then divided the continent in two no longer exist, and gradually the hope is being realised that “Europe, endowed with sovereign and free institutions, will one day reach the full dimensions that geography, and even more, history have given it.”

As the European Union has expanded, the world itself has become more complex and ever changing; increasingly interconnected and global, it has, as a consequence, become less and less “Eurocentric.” Despite a larger and stronger Union, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion.

In addressing you today, I would like, as a pastor, to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all the citizens of Europe.

It is a message of hope, based on the confidence that our problems can become powerful forces for unity in working to overcome all those fears which Europe—together with the entire world—is presently experiencing. It is a message of hope in the Lord, who turns evil into good and death into life.

It is a message of encouragement to return to the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent. At the heart of this ambitious political project was confidence in man, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in man, in men and women as persons endowed with transcendent dignity.

I feel bound to stress the close bond between these two words: “dignity” and “transcendent.”

“Dignity” was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War. Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in contrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries.

Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person. This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterized as it is by an enriching encounter whose “distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them,” thus forging the very concept of the “person.” ...

Read full address Francis Goes to Strasbourg: Full Text of Pope's Speech to European Parliament (America magazine)

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