Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Pope Francis speaks to Europe

The early BBC news reporting of Pope Francis' address to the European Parliament is utterly woeful - even to the extent of suggesting the figure of 200 years as the extent of the Christian influence on Europe rather than the 2000 years that appears in the full text. Presumably some correction, and fuller reporting, will follow in due course, but I would not rely on it.

Read the complete text: Pope Francis’s address to the European Parliament in full. I think it will reveal a side to Pope Francis that many have not wanted to recognise. Not for the first time, I have read Pope Francis and been reminded of Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI (and this happens before you even look at the footnotes). This is Pope Francis in an absolute line of continuity with his immediate predecessors. Do read the whole, because it is only then that you can really appreciate the import of any small extracts you will see in news reporting - even the extracts below, which I offer in the expectation that they will be missed out of most media reporting:
Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb....
The family, united, fruitful and indissoluble, possesses the elements fundamental for fostering hope in the future. Without this solid basis, the future ends up being built on sand, with dire social consequences....
A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.
Taking as a starting point this opening to the transcendent, I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of the moment. I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth. This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment. This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person....
The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions. Europe will be able to confront the problems associated with immigration only if it is capable of clearly asserting its own cultural identity and enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of European citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants. Only if it is capable of adopting fair, courageous and realistic policies which can assist the countries of origin in their own social and political development and in their efforts to resolve internal conflicts – the principal cause of this phenomenon – rather than adopting policies motivated by self-interest, which increase and feed such conflicts. We need to take action against the causes and not only the effects....
 And the concluding paragraph:
Dear Members of the European Parliament, the time has come to work together in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values. In building a Europe which courageously embraces its past and confidently looks to its future in order fully to experience the hope of its present. The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman. A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!
UPDATED: Pope Francis' address to the Council of Europe - also well worth reading in full - is here: Pope Francis’s speech to the Council of Europe in full. I must admit to not having yet fully understood the notions of "multipolarity" and "transversality", but I am going to make sure I do within the next few days!

See also the following recent addresses by Pope Francis, which have not received as much attention as they might have done (Aunty is right again!):

Address to Participants in the International Colloquium on the Complementarity between Man and Woman

[And Lord Sacks' address to the same colloquium: In full: Lord Sacks speech that brought Vatican conference to its feet .]

Address to Participants in the Commemorative Conference of the Italian Catholic Physician's Association

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