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I have a dream pope tells struggling Europe

VATICAN CITY (CNS): “I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime, but a summons to greater commitment” to help those in need Pope Francis said as he received the prestigious Charlemagne Prize on May 6 in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican.

Evoking United States of America civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., he told Europe’s heads-of-state and top-level representatives that, “I dream of a Europe where young people” can lead a simple life and see that marriage and children are a joy, not a burden because there are no stable, well-paying jobs.

Pope Francis, the South American son of Italian immigrants, said he dreamed of a divided Europe coming together to protect the rights of everyone, especially families and migrants in the face of an unprecedented influx of immigrants and refugees while it also struggles to counter continued economic woes. 

The pope noted that the desire for a united Europe “seems to be fading” with people “tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there.” 

He urged the continent to step up to its responsibilities with renewed hope and not to cower behind walls and treaties.

The pope’s 30-minute talk was tinged at times with admonishments but filled with heartfelt advice and lofty yet urgent dreams for the future.

“What has happened to you?” he asked three times. What happened, he asked, to the glorious Europe that championed human rights, that was the home of artists, the mother of heroes who upheld “and even sacrificed their lives for the dignity of their brothers and sisters?”

The pope said, “I dream of a new European humanism” rooted in memory, courage and “a sound and humane utopian vision” built on including and integrating diversity, promoting respect and dialogue, and offering everyone an important role to play in working for the common good.

The Charlemagne Award, presented every year by the citizens of Aachen, Germany, to honour a public figure for his or her commitment in promoting European unity, is traditionally conferred on the feast of the Ascension in Aachen.

This year, however, the ceremony was held at the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, drawing distinguished European leaders including, German chancellor, Angela Merkel; Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi; Felipe VI, the king of Spain; Henri, the grand duke of Luxembourg, as well as the heads of the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission. 

The mayor of Aachen, Marcel Phillipp, told those assembled that “Pope Francis is a godsend for Europe.”

He observed that the pope’s perspective as a South American whose relatives were Italian immigrants and as leader of the Catholic Church, lets him see “clearly through the veil of affluence just how warped and ensnared in contradictions our continent is.” 

Europe has lost its bearings and “the values that we urgently need to rediscover and strengthen are essentially Christian values,” Phillipp said.

Pope Francis, who typically eschews titles of honour, said he offered “this prestigious award for Europe. For ours is not so much a celebration as a moment to express our shared hope for a new and courageous step forward for this beloved continent.”

He called for the recollection of and courageous return to the bold ideals of the founding fathers of a united Europe who were committed to “alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war” and who “dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction. They dared to seek multilateral solutions to increasingly shared problems.”

The pope cautioned that attempts to make everything the same leads to “forms of ideological colonisation” and the “cruel poverty” of exclusion, which in turn leads to vulgarity, narrowness and meanness.

“Peace will be lasting in the measure that we arm our children with the weapons of dialogue, that we teach them to fight the good fight of encounter and negotiation,” the pope said. 

“In this way, we will bequeath to them a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion,” he said.

Pope Francis called for real efforts to help young people develop their potential, a just distribution of resources and opportunities and a “more inclusive and equitable” social economy that invests in people.

He said he dreamed of a Europe that respects life; cares for the poor, elderly and estranged; fosters honesty, beauty and simplicity; promotes the rights of everyone; and concentrates on “faces rather than numbers, on birthrates more than rates of consumption.”

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