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
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
Rue Capitaine Crespel 47
1050 Brussels, Belgium