THE idea that something as large and diverse as a continent can
have an image seems bizarre. Europe has not only an image, but an
image problem. Pope Francis, with no political constituency to cosy
up to, can be relied upon to present things more truthfully than
others: "In many quarters we encounter a general impression of
weariness and ageing, of a Europe which is now a grandmother, no
longer fertile and lively. As a result, the great ideas which once
inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be
replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions."
It might have been expected that his audience of MEPs, implicated
in that bureaucracy, would receive this coldly. Instead, they
applauded for more than a minute. It is a sign, perhaps, that
holiness can gain a hearing where hectoring cannot.