CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 April 2017

Print Version    Email to Friend
Look for rebirth in original ideals pope counsels European Union

ROME (SE): “It is a way of life, a way of understanding man based on his transcendence and inalienable dignity, as something more than simply a sum of rights to defend or claims to advance,” Pope Francis said in addressing representatives of all 27 members of the European Union on the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome which led to the establishment of the Union on 1 November 1993.
 
Speaking to the illustrious gathering at the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace on March 24, on the eve of the actual anniversary of the signing on 25 March 1957, Pope Francs described the forming of the Union as a unique event in the history of humankind.
 
He said that the nature and responsibility of humanity lies in the formation of the Union with its ferment of evangelical fraternity, embracing the desire for justice and truth of humankind all honed out of a 1,000-year experience.
 
“Rome, with its vocation to universality, symbolises that experience and was thus chosen as the place for the signing of the Treaties. For here, as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, J. Luns, observed, ‘were laid the political, juridical and social foundations of our civilisation’,“ the pope continued.
 
He went on to say that the concept of the European Union is especially important today, as it was born in an era only too familiar with tragedy and the walls of division and it was vital to work for a united and open Europe, as well as the removal of the unnatural barrier that divided the continent from the Baltic Sea and the Adriatic.
 
“What efforts were made to tear down that wall!” Pope Francis asked in a challenge to remember the blood, sweat and tears that went into the memorable tumbling of the mighty wall.
However, he then lamented the collective amnesia of a new generation, saying, “Yet today the memory of those efforts has been lost. Forgotten too is the tragedy of separated families, poverty and destitution born of that division.”
 
He continued, pointing to history repeating itself, “Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the dangers of our time; beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones.”
 
However, he stressed that the anniversary must jolt the collective memory, as the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 heralded in the longest era of peace that Europe has ever known.
He added that the peace was able to come about because of human efforts, because without them the treaty would have remained a dead letter, but the spirit of service to neighbour that was inspired in the hearts of the people saw it blossom and the passion for politics was built on the foundation of Christianity, without which the western values of dignity, freedom and justice would have proved largely incomprehensible.
 
He quoted Pope John Paul II as saying that the soul of Europe was able to remain united because on top of the common origins, the Christian and human values were a uniting, living force.
 
However, Pope Francis stressed that even the glorious ideal that inspired the Union at its conception is today being challenged by a world in economic crisis, where established social and family models are being challenged and every institution of society is in crisis.
 
He pointed out that ironically the founding ideal of removing barriers is little by little being replaced with a modern xenophobia, as the migration crisis prompted by people fleeing hunger and violence has engendered fear and a desire to rebuild the fences.
 
“Answers about the future are to be found precisely in the pillars on which they determined to build the European economic community,” Pope Francis suggested, saying that he believes solutions will be found in the ideal of the centrality of the person, effective solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development and openness to the future.
 
“Those who govern are charged with discerning the paths of hope, identifying specific ways forward to ensure that the significant steps taken thus far have not been wasted, but serve as the pledge of a long and fruitful journey,” he continued.
 
“Europe finds new hope when man is the centre and the heart of her institutions. I am convinced that this entails an attentive and trust-filled readiness to hear the expectations voiced by individuals, society and the peoples who make up the Union,” he said, adding that sadly there is a strong sense of a split between the citizenry and government institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to modern sensibilities.
 
He then stressed the need to recover the spirit of family, whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts.
 
“It helps to keep in mind that Europe is a family of peoples and that as in every good family, there are different sensitivities, yet all can grow to the extent that all are united,” he commented.
 
Pope Francis described the biggest danger to the health of the European Union as being the temptation to yield to fear or close itself off under the illusion of security, as the strength of the Union has always been determined by its multicultural encounters with other peoples.
 
He described openness to the world as resurrecting the ability to dialogue as a form of encounter on every level; embracing dialogue among states, institutions and people, as well as with the numerous migrants that are landing on its shores.
 
He stated that he does not believe that these matters can be treated as numerical economic problems, as the real question to be answered is a cultural one.
 
Sadly he added that it seems that the prosperity of Europe has seen people lower their gaze, which has clipped the wings of the continent and blinded its eyes to the outside world, the very value that lies at the foundation of its success.
 
Pope Francis said that he believes that new hope will be born when Europe invests in development and in peace.
 
“Development is not the result of a combination of various systems of production. It has to do with the whole human being: the dignity of labour, decent living conditions, access to education and necessary medical care,” he said.
 
Then, quoting Pope Paul VI, he concluded by saying, “Development is the new name of peace.”

More from this section