This visit to the European Parliament comes more than a quarter after that of Pope John Paul II.
Pope Francis points out the big changes since then. The world had become less Eurocentric. Despite a larger and stronger EU, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion. In addressing the European Parliament Pope Francis liked to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all citizens of Europe. Pope Francis points out the value of the firm conviction of the founders of the ambitious European political project based on the confidence in men and women as persons bestowed with transcendent dignity. Promoting the dignity means recognizing that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily.
However these rights must not be misused as broad individualistic rights without duties for the common good of society. Pope Francis criticizes selfish lifestyles, the throwaway culture and uncontrolled consumerism. Upholding the dignity of the person means instead acknowledging the value of human life. He explains how hope in the future can be restored when we are open to the transcendent dimension of life, the connection between ideas and heaven on the one hand and the world and concrete reality on the other.
The Pope underlines the readiness of the Holy See and the Catholic Church to engage in meaningful, open and transparent dialogue with the Institutions of the EU. He underlined further the injustice of persecution of religious minorities and Christians in particular as well as the diversity in the EU. The European Parliament has a special responsibility to keep democracy alive in Europe by avoiding the many globalizing tendencies to dilute reality. Nurturing the gifts of each man and woman is important, by education, beginning with the family. Education must include assisting the human person in his or her totality. Pope Francis points out that Europe should stay in the vanguard of efforts to promote ecology.
The second area in which people’s talents flourish, apart from education, is labor. There is a need to restore dignity to labor by ensuring proper working conditions. There also needs to be an united response to the question of migration and we cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery. We need to take action against the causes and not only the effects. The Pope also raised the importance of a positive dialogue with candidate countries in the Balkans and with neighboring countries. He underlined the importance of the Christians to the world like the soul to the body. Pope Francis closes his address by requesting from the European Parliament a Europe which revolves not around the economy but cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman.