It’s been 26 years since the European Parliament had a papal visit. Pope Francis addressed the Parliament at Strasbourg, and his speech was far from a diplomatic eulogy of the European Union. It was a direct attack on the European elites and their bureaucracy, which cannot seem to find the way to address the problems of unemployment, recession and migration that plague the continent.
“In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens toward institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful,” Francis said.
The Pope compared the continent to a grandmother who is no longer fertile, and vibrant but rather “elderly and haggard”. “The great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions,” he said. He urged law-makers to create jobs, and not allow the bureaucracy of its institutions to stiffle the ideals which once defined it.
“The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions,” he said. A few days before his visit the rescue of 600 migrants south of Sicily was in the news, and the Pope called for “a united response to the question of migration”. “We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery. The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance,” he said. The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, when asked whether he agreed with the Pope replied “assolutamente si”.