On Nov. 25, 2014, Pope Francis went to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, to remind politicians the Christian principles upon which the European continent must be based. A few weeks earlier, on Oct. 3, the Holy Father had received in audience in Rome the participants at the plenary assembly of the council of the bishops’ conferences of Europe. Pope Francis decided not to read the prepared text, but to speak off the cuff, going to the roots of the problems Europe is presently facing. Here is the talk actually given by the Pope, as it was transcribed by one of those present (and reproduced on Sandro Magister’s website, chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it):
Dear brother bishops,
What is happening today in Europe? What is going on in the heart of our mother Europe? Is she still our mother Europe, or grandma Europe? Is she still fertile? Has she fallen into sterility? Is she unable to give new life? For one thing, this Europe has committed a few sins. We must say this with love: it has not wanted to recognize one of its roots. And because of this it feels and does not feel Christian. Or it feels Christian somewhat in secret, but doesn’t want to recognize it, this European root.
The Europe of today has been invaded. It may be the second invasion of the barbarians, I don’t know. First it opened its doors in order to profit from labor. But now it feels this “invasion” of people who are coming to look for work, who are fleeing from their homeland in search of freedom and a better life.
Europe is wounded. I’ll go back to that image that says so much to me, and I say that the Church today seems to me like a field hospital because there are so many wounded in the Church. But Europe is wounded too. Wounded by all the trials it has undergone. It has gone from the time of prosperity, of great well-being, to a worrying crisis in which young people too are discarded. In the newspapers the other day it said that here in Italy youth unemployment is up to 43 percent, I think. In Spain it’s 50 percent. And the Spanish bishops have told me that in Andalusia it is almost at 60 percent.
Cardinal Erdõ talked about the discarding of children and the elderly. And it’s true. But now there is also the discarding of a whole generation of young people. I don’t know if it is only in Europe, or in Europe and in the developed countries, that there is talk of 75 million from the age of twenty-five and down. But it’s a whole generation. As European bishops, what are we doing for the young people? Giving them something to eat? Yes, that’s the first thing.
But that doesn’t give dignity to a young person, to anyone. Dignity comes from work. And there is the danger that the children of mother, today practically grandma Europe, are losing their dignity because they do not have jobs and cannot bring bread home.
|Pope Francis kisses the statue of the Infant
Jesus during the 2014 Christmas Mass at the Vatican.
Jesus during the 2014 Christmas Mass at the Vatican.
Europe has discarded its children. A bit triumphantly. I remember that when I was studying in one country the clinics that did abortions then prepared everything to send it to cosmetic factories. Makeup made with the blood of innocents. And this was something to brag about, because it was progressive: the rights of the woman, the woman has the right over her body.
I don’t know about here in Italy, I don’t want to say because I’m not sure, but what will happen when the state is unable to pay the pensions, because there aren’t enough young people working according to the law, because there is that black market for labor that they do, not always but… And the elderly—I’ve said this about Latin America, about my country, but I believe it’s a universal problem or of many countries or some other continents—the elderly are discarded with stealth euthanasia. The social services cover medical treatment up to a certain point, and then you’re on your own!
A Europe weary with disorientation. And I don’t want to be a pessimist, but let’s tell the truth: after food, clothing, and medicine, what are the most important expenditures? Cosmetics, and I don’t know how to say this in Italian, but the “mascotas,” the little animals. They don’t have children, but their affection goes to the little cat, to the little dog. And this is the second expenditure after the three main ones. The third is the whole industry to promote sexual pleasure. So it’s food, medicine, clothing, cosmetics, little animals, and the life of pleasure. Our young people feel this, they see this, they live this.
I liked very much what His Eminence said, because this is truly the drama of Europe today. But it’s not the end. I believe that Europe has many resources for going forward. It’s like a sickness that Europe has today. A wound. And the greatest resource is the person of Jesus. Europe, return to Jesus! Return to that Jesus whom you have said was not in your roots! And this is the work of the pastors: to preach Jesus in the midst of these wounds. I have spoken of only a few, but there are tremendous wounds. To preach Jesus. And I ask you this: don’t be ashamed to proclaim Jesus Christ risen who has redeemed us all. And for us too that the Lord may not rebuke us, as today in the Gospel of Luke he rebuked these two cities.
The Lord wants to save us. I believe this. This is our mission: to proclaim Jesus Christ, without shame. And he is ready to open the doors of his heart, because he manifests his omnipotence above all in mercy and forgiveness. Let’s go forward with preaching. Let’s not be ashamed. So many ways of preaching, but to mama Europe - or grandma Europe, or wounded Europe – only Jesus Christ can speak a word of salvation today. Only he can open a door of escape.