Friday, May 6, 2016 2:22 pm
Pope Francis on Friday was has been presented with Germany’s prestigious Charlemagne Prize, given each year to public figures who have made exceptional contributions to the cause of promoting European unity.
Francis, a vocal champion of migrant rights and other social justice causes, was honoured for acting as Europe’s “voice of conscience,’’ the awarding committee said when it made the decision in November.
In a break from custom, the prize was presented today in the Vatican, rather than in the German city of Aachen.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Union leaders and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi all travelled to Rome for the special occasion.
Aachen Mayor Marcel Philipp, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Parliament President Martin Schulz all attended the event which kicked off at noon.
Argentine-born Francis, the first non-European pontiff in 13 centuries, is not the first Charlemagne Prize laureate among popes.
In 2004, John Paul II was awarded the Extraordinary Charlemagne Prize, the only of its kind to date.