Pope a leading light on human rights in EU

Pope's address to the European Parliament focuses on consumerism, migration and human rights in a now 'haggard' Europe.

    Previous papal address to the Council of Europe was given by John Paul II a quarter of a century ago in 1988 [Reuters]
    Previous papal address to the Council of Europe was given by John Paul II a quarter of a century ago in 1988 [Reuters]

    On November 25th Pope Francis addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, as part of his second European tour in just over a year.

    Parliamentarians listening to the first papal address to the council in more than a quarter of a century, heard the Argentinean pontiff express views on wide ranging topics including consumerism, loneliness, migration and human rights.

    MEPs were told that the 77-year-old pope's message was one of "hope and encouragement" to a Europe which he felt is in the midst of a decline.

    "We encounter a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe that is now a grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant," he said. Part of the decline was due to what he views as an increasingly disconnected society.Human rights are central to a secure future for all citizens'.

    Humans were being consumed and rejected; 'treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful due to weakness, illness or old age.’

    'In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness  typical of those who have no connection with others. This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate.’

    Controversially, the Pope made reference to the potential danger of the recent withdrawal of countries, such as Italy, from operations to rescue migrants trying to reach Europe by sea from Africa.

    "We cannot allow the Mediterranean Sea to become a cast cemetery," said the pope, who last year visited Lampedusa, the Sicilian island which has become a controversial landing zone for asylum seekers and economic migrants.

    His comments were welcomed by, among others, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz who reportedly called the speech a "message of peace and dialogue, sincerity and responsibility for each other".

    The alliance of Catholic development agencies, CIDSE Secretary-General Bernd Nilles called for parliamentarians to take the pope's words seriously: "We hope Members of European Parliament were listening well to the message of the Holy Father."

    The pope's visit to Strasbourg will be followed by a three-day visit to Turkey this weekend. A formal invitation was sent from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The visit will make him the third pope to visit Turkey in recent decades, after St John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.


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