Pope Francis has called on EU leaders to fight populism in Europe. These movements are "blossoms of egoism" said Francis at a meeting with top politicians at the Vatican.
Populist movements are unable to "see the narrowness of their own thoughts," Francis stressed. At the same time, the pope called for more solidarity among EU states. This, he said, is the "most effective remedy" against populists.
It is necessary to begin again "to think European in order to ward off the contrary danger of a gray uniformity or the triumph of particularisms". European politicians should not exploit popular emotions to win approval.
60 years of the Treaties of Rome
The occasion for the audience of EU leaders with the pope was the 60. Anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. With this, on 25. March 1957 in Rome the foundation stone for today’s EU was laid. German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) also came to the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican.
Also present was Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Bishops’ Conference. On behalf of the assembled heads of state and government and EU representatives, Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni welcomed the Pope.
Return to ideals
In his 30-minute keynote address on Europe, the Latin American pope stressed that the EU could overcome its current crisis if it recalled the ideals of its founding fathers. However, the "spirit of European solidarity" must not be reduced to economic and financial requirements alone.
The Founding Fathers recalled that Europe was not a "sum of rules to be followed, not a manual of protocols and procedures to be followed," Francis said. The human being must always be at the center. Europe is "a way of conceiving man starting from his transcendent and inalienable dignity".
Institutions "distant and inattentive"
The pope again opposed sealing himself off from refugees. Europe must not lock itself into the "fear of false security", he said. Europe’s history has always been marked by encounters with other peoples and cultures, and its identity has always been multicultural.
At the same time, the Pope sees a distance between the European institutions and the citizens. Unfortunately, one often has the impression that there is an "affective gap" between the two. The European institutions are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the various sensitivities within the EU.
Mixture of ideals and concrete
Francis called for a "new European humanism". This, he said, must consist of ideals and concrete implementation. In addition, the Pope stressed the importance of Christian values for Europe. Christianity had been at the origin of European culture. Even today, he said, the continent still lives by the same Christian and humane values. "In our multicultural world, these values will continue to find full home if they know how to maintain their vital link with the root from which they emerged," Francis said.
The central ceremony for the 60th anniversary. Anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome takes place Saturday at the Capitoline Museums in Rome. There the treaties were on the 25. signed on March 1957.