Remember shattered walls of past divisions, pope tells EU leaders

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By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — Europe must recover the memories and lessons of past tragedies in order to confront
the challenges Europeans
face today that seek to divide rather than unite humanity, Pope Francis said.

the founding fathers of what is now the European Union worked toward a
“united and open Europe,” free of the “walls and divisions”
erected after World
War II, the tragedy of poverty and violence affecting millions of innocent
people lingers on, the pope told European leaders gathered at the Vatican March 24.

generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these
days we debate how to keep out the ‘dangers’ of our time, beginning with the long file of women,
men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and
their loved ones,” he said.

Francis welcomed the 27 European heads of state to the Vatican to commemorate
the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which gave birth to European
Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.

March 25, 1957, the
treaties sought to unite Europe following the devastation wrought by World War
II. The agreements laid
the groundwork for what eventually became the European Union.

the “Sala Regia” of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis placed his hand above
his heart and bowed slightly to the European leaders before taking his seat. At
the end of the audience, he and the government leaders went into the Sistine
Chapel and posed for a photograph in front of Michelangelo’s fresco, The Last

his speech, the pope said the commemoration of the treaty should not be reduced
to “a remembrance of things past,” but should motivate a desire
“to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the

memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and expectations of the people of
Europe, who call for discernment in the present so that the journey that has
begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence,” he said.

the heart of the founding fathers’ creation of a united Europe, the pope continued,
was concern for the
human person, who after years of bloodshed held on “to faith in the
possibility of a better future.”

spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses
and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the union to productive,
economic and financial needs,” he said.

But despite achievements in forging unity and
solidarity, Pope Francis
said, Europe today suffers from a “lapse of memory” where
peace is now “regarded as superfluous.”

regain the peace attained
in the past, he added, Europe must reconnect with its Christian roots otherwise “the
Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely

fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically secular societies, free
of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for
believers and nonbelievers,” the pope said.

economic crisis of the past decade, the crisis of the family “and
established social models” and the current migration crisis, he said, offer an
opportunity for Europe’s leaders to discern and assess rather than
“engender fear and profound confusion.”

is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential
and to build on it,” the
pope said. “It is a time of challenge and opportunity.”

he added, will find new
hope “when man is at the center and the heart of her institutions”
in order to stem “the growing ‘split’ between the citizenry and the
European institutions which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to
the different sensibilities present in the union.”

migration crisis also offers an opportunity for Europe’s leaders to refuse to
give in to fear and “false forms of security,” while posing a much
deeper question to the continent’s citizens.

kind of culture does Europe propose today?” he asked, adding that the fear of migrants
“has its root cause in the loss of ideals.”

an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us
from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts and somehow call into
question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.”

defending families, investing in development and peace and defending the family and life
“in all its sacredness,” Europe can once again find new ways to steer
its course, Pope Francis told the European heads of state.

leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a new European humanism made up of
ideals and concrete actions,” the pope said. “This will mean being
unafraid to make
practical decisions capable of
responding to people’s real problems and of standing the test of

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Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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