Pope Francis Calls on Europe’s Leaders to Work for Peace

by Libbie Steiner

 

On Tuesday, November 25, Pope Francis called on European leaders to be instruments of peace for the continent. The Holy Father spoke to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France before addressing the European Parliament later in the day. The Pope remarked that “the royal road to peace – and to avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two World Wars of the last century – is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be fully embraced.” With representatives and leaders from nearly every European nation present, Pope Francis urged Europe to work together towards unity and advocate for human dignity as well as denounce violations of freedom, both in the continent and around the world.

The Council of Europe is an organization of international advisers that works to promote human rights and legal continuity as well as combat terrorism and corruption in Europe. All of its 47 members states, of which 28 are members of the European Union, have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects rights of law, democracy, and expression. As the council is celebrating its sixty-fifth anniversary this year, the Pontiff said that its work is “above all that of promoting human rights, together with the growth of democracy and the rule of law. This is a particularly valuable undertaking, with significant ethical and social implications, since the development of our societies and their peaceful future coexistence depends on a correct understanding of these terms and constant reflection on them. This reflection is one of the great contributions which Europe has offered, and continues to offer, to the entire world.”

 

The Pope went on to stress the importance of working for a culture of peace: “Achieving the good of peace first calls for educating to peace, banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalizing those who think or live differently than ourselves.  It is true that conflict cannot be ignored or concealed; it has to be faced.” He noted that the issues of religious and international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and human trafficking are particularly grave situations in our world today that are contrary to a mission of peace. The Holy Father also said that “peace is not merely the absence of war, conflicts and tensions. In the Christian vision, peace is at once a gift of God and the fruit of free and reasonable human acts aimed at pursuing the common good in truth and love.”

 

The Pontiff thanked the Council for its many contributions to peace in Europe and particularly commended the Exchange on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue. This program opens up exchange of ideas between people of different religious, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds in a respectful manner. He said that the Exchange seems particularly important “in the current multicultural and multipolar context” and for “skillfully linking the European identity forged over the course of centuries to the expectations and aspirations of other peoples who are now making their appearance on the continent.”

 

Pope Francis also touched on the issue of human rights and the danger of seeing a person as a “monad,” focusing only on their individuality instead of he whole human person. He remarked that human persons are “being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited,” noting how the most vulnerable members of society, the terminally ill and children in the womb are disregarded, abandoned, and killed as a matter of fact. In referencing Raphael’s famous painting of the School of Athens, the Pope remarked that a Europe which is not open to the transcendent dimension of the human person, “riskts slowly losing its own soul.”

 

The Holy Father closed his address by mentioning the countless men and women who have worked to “develop the continent, both by entrepreneurial activity and by works of education, welfare, and human promotion.” He said that these people, who he considers saints, are a beacon of hope for those living in poverty. The Pope said that the poor of Europe “ask not only for the food they need for survival, which is the most elementary of rights, but also for a renewed appreciation of the value of their own life, which poverty obscures, and a rediscovery of the dignity conferred by work.”


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