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Need for confidence in the Europe debate

05 December 2014


From the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe

Sir, - After a week when Europe has once again been in the headlines, we can be grateful to Pope Francis for giving us a theological lead. In his inspiring speech in Strasbourg before the European Parliament on Tuesday of last week (News, 28 November), the Pope offered a searching critique of the EU.

He described Europe as giving the impression of being "elderly and haggard", with institutions that are experienced by its citizens as aloof, laying down rules that are perceived as insensitive to individual peoples if not downright harmful. Certain sections of the press focused on this critique: in fact, his positive proposals were the more striking.

Pope Francis argued that human beings must be at the core of the European project, not just as citizens nor merely as economic subjects, but as persons endowed with transcendental dignity. Assigning a central role to the human person would put rights and values at Europe's heart rather than economics. Against this background, the Pope urged MEPs to work together in constructing a Europe "which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values".

The Pope had special words for Christians. "Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body." The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and historical memory. He calls upon Christians to help Europe be true to its best self, and to grow together in peace and harmony as its founders had intended.

Europe is fundamentally a community of people, not just a common market, and the destiny of the UK is closely tied to its relationship with our neighbouring European peoples. This relationship is much too important to leave to politicians and economists, necessary though their perspectives are. Therefore, I earnestly hope that Anglican theologians and national and local church leaders will find their own voice to speak confidently and clearly into public debate on Europe, as the Pope has so eloquently done.

Rue Capitaine Crespel 47
1050 Brussels, Belgium

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