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The Pope calls for a “memory transfusion” for Europe, to build bridges, not walls

Francis received the 2016 Charlemagne Prize in the presence of the highest offices of the European Union. In his speech, a veritable “treatise”, Pope Bergoglio highlighted two verbs in particular: “to dare” and “to dream”, calling for a “new European humanism”, reiterating three more verbs “to integrate, to dialogue, to generate.” “Updating” the idea of Europe “requires a memory transfusion”, in order to restore the lesson of Schuman, De Gasperi, Adenauer. No "cosmetic retouches.” There is need for “de facto solidarity.” Only “a profound cultural integration” can act as an antidote against "unilateral paradigms” and “ideological colonization.” Offering employment to young people, "the protagonists" of Europe. The mission of the Church is the same as ever: “to bring back the pure water of the Gospel to the roots of Europe." Ultimately, eight concrete expressions of the “dream”





“What has happened to you, Europe?” In tone and content, Pope Francis’ speech on receiving the Charlemagne Award, one of the longest of his pontificate, make it more similar to a “treatise” addressed to the highest offices of the European Union in the Sala Regia – with German chancellor Angela Merkel, received in papal audience shortly before –attending the award ceremony of the 2016 Charlemagne Prize. Bergoglio is the second Pope to receive the prestigious accolade, the first being John Paul II, “in tribute of his extraordinary commitment to peace, understanding and mercy in a European society of values.” “I am convinced that resignation and weariness do not belong to the soul of Europe”, was Francis’ encouragement. The Pope reiterated two verbs in particular – “to dare”, and “to dream” – calling for a “new European humanism”, reiterating: “to integrate, to dialogue and to generate.” The Pope’s speech was received with a prolonged standing ovation by all those present.

The Pope opened his address with the same image used in the speech at the European Parliament, namely that of a Europe “as a grandmother”, “weary, aging, no longer fertile and vital, that the great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost their appeal”; “a declining Europe, that has lost its ability to be innovative and creative.” In short, a Europe “that it is more concerned with preserving and dominating spaces than with generating processes of inclusion and change”, that is becoming increasingly “entrenched”, that is “protecting spaces” rather than “generating processes.”

“Updating the idea of Europe” requires “a transfusion of memory”, Francis said quoting the writer Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, creating a virtuous cycle between the past and present of the Continent. “A memory transfusion – the Pope said – can free us from today’s temptation to build hastily on the shifting sands of immediate results, which may produce “quick and easy short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fulfilment.” The founding fathers of Europe, mentioned several times, are the role model. They were prepared “to pursue alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war.” “Not only did they boldly conceive the idea of Europe, but they dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction. They dared to seek multilateral solutions to increasingly shared problems.”

Thus, no “cosmetic retouches”: there is the need for “de facto solidarity” to “build bridges and tear down walls.”

Only “a profound cultural integration” can act as an antidote to “unilateral paradigms” and “ideological colonization”, the Pope underlined, calling for the need to build “coalitions” that are “not only military and economic, but cultural, educational, philosophical and religious”, to “arm our people with the culture of dialogue and encounter”, to respect “the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to.”

Young people are the protagonists of the last part of the speech: they are the “present”, not the future of Europe, in order not to lose them and to let them be “protagonists” we need to create “dignified and well-paid” jobs. In order to reach this goal we need to pass from “a liquid to a social economy.”

“To the rebirth of a Europe that is weary, yet still rich in energies and possibilities, the Church can and must play her part,” as “only a Church rich in witnesses will be able to bring back the pure water of the Gospel to the roots of Europe.”

The “task” of the Church for Europe “is one with her mission: the proclamation of the Gospel, which today more than ever finds expression in going forth to bind the wounds of humanity with the powerful yet simple presence of Jesus, and his mercy that consoles and encourages.”

“With mind and heart, with hope and without vain nostalgia, like a son who rediscovers in Mother Europe his roots of life and faith, I dream of a new European humanism, one that involves “a constant work of humanization” and calls for “memory, courage, [and] a sound and humane utopian vision.”

The final paragraph of the Pope’s speech reiterates the verb “to dream”, which for Francis has no abstract connotation. “I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother” – the Pope said – “a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life. I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter.  I dream of a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless.  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.  I dream of a Europe where young people breathe the pure air of honesty, where they love the beauty of a culture and a simple life undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism, where getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to the lack of stable employment.  I dream of a Europe of families, with truly effective policies concentrated on faces rather than numbers, on birth rates more than rates of consumption.  I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all.  I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.”



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