Pope Francis to receive Germany's Charlemagne Prize

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis was selected to be the
2016 recipient of Germany’s Charlemagne Prize for his commitment in promoting
European unity.

The announcement was made Dec. 23 in Aachen, Germany by the
prize’s executive committee. Citing his address to the European Parliament in
2014, the committee commended the pope’s message of “peace and
understanding” as well as “compassion, tolerance, solidarity and the
integrity of creation throughout his pontificate.”

“In a time when the European Union is facing the
greatest challenge of the 21st century, it is the pope ‘from the end of the
world’ who orients millions of Europeans to what the European Union brings
together at its core: a valid system of values, respect for human dignity and
civil liberties, the uniqueness of human beings whatever their ethnic, religious
or cultural background and respect for our natural resources,” the
committee’s statement said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told
journalists shortly after the announcement that the pope accepted the award as “a
sign of encouragement for peace in Europe and the world.”

The Charlemagne Prize, named after the first Holy Roman
Emperor, is “given to public
figures or bodies ‘distinguished by their outstanding work toward European
unity or cooperation between its states.'”

Pope Francis is the second pontiff to receive the
prestigious award following St. John Paul II, who received an
“extraordinary” version of the prize in 2004. Past recipients include
former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American diplomat Henry
Kissinger, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

“It is interesting the fact that the first non-European
pope of this era receives a great European award, which means that he is a
person who is able to understand Europe’s role in the history of making peace
in today’s world from a global perspective,” Father Lombardi said.

The Vatican spokesman also confirmed that Pope Francis will
not be traveling to Germany next year to receive the award, but will be
presented with the Charlemagne Prize by a delegation in Rome.

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