Friday, May 6, 2016 4:06 pm
Pope Francis called on Europe to adopt an open stance on welcoming asylum seekers after receiving the prestigious Charlemagne Prize in the Vatican on Friday.
“I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life,” the pope said after receiving the award given to figures who have contributed to European unity.
“I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being”. “The founding fathers (of Europe) were heralds of peace and prophets of the future.
“Today more than ever, their vision inspires us to build bridges and tear down walls”. The Argentine pontiff has repeatedly called for the EU to open its doors to the massive waves of asylum seekers trying to enter following a long series of migrant-boat disasters in the Mediterranean.
“Today we urgently need to build “coalitions” that are not only military and economic, but cultural, educational, philosophical and religious,” he said in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Parliament Speaker Martin Schulz, among others.
“Coalitions that can make clear that, behind many conflicts, there is often in play the power of economic groups. “Coalitions capable of defending people from being exploited for improper ends. Let us arm our people with the culture of dialogue and encounter”.
The pope said that in a “complex multipolar framework” it was necessary to have “courage” and determination” to accept the “challenge of updating the idea of Europe”. He said Europe should be based on “the capacity to integrate, the capacity to dialogue and the capacity to generate”.
The Charlemagne Prize is awarded annually since 1950 by the German city of Aachen to people who have contributed to the ideals upon which Europe has been founded. The pope received the prize from the head of the awarding committee.
Schulz said Francis deserved the prize because “he recalls us to the real European values”.
He said the time had come to “fight for the EU” and the pope was a “beacon” for his message. There was a mood of great expectancy over the speech by the pope, who has been recognised as Europe’s “conscience”.
Earlier Linden, the jury chair, read the citation which said the pope’s award was a tribute “to His extraordinary commitment in favour of peace, understanding and mercy in a European society of values”. Francis held a private audience Friday morning with Schulz, a former Charlemagne Prize recipient, Junker and Tusk, and also met with Merkel. Previous winners of the prize include former U.S.
President Bill Clinton and St. John Paul II, received a special edition of the prize in 2004.
The Holy Roman emperor Charlemagne once ruled a large swathe of western Europe from Aachen, near the Belgian border.
*Reported by ANSA