Pope Francis rebukes Europe – ”Migrants are not criminals”
Pope Francis urged top EU leaders – including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and the presidents of the European Parliament, Commission and Council – not to see migrants as criminals. Francis lamented that Europe had grown “weary, yet still rich in energies and possibilities” and said it was “increasingly entrenched, rather than open to initiating new social processes capable of engaging all individuals and groups in the search for new and productive solutions to current problems.
“What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom? What has happened to you, Europe, the home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters?” he asked.
“What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters?”
Francis stated that the desire for European unity “seems to be fading” and that “those who consider putting up fences” were betraying the dream of the founders of a modern Europe. “I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter … I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime,” he said.
The Popes comments were made at a ceremony in the Vatican to award him the Charlemagne Prize – an annual award by the German city of Aachen to those who have contributed most to the ideals of post-war Europe. In reply to the Pope, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker observed “When you take in 12 refugees — in proportion to the population of the Vatican, that is more than any EU member state — you fill our hearts with new courage.”
European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the migrant crisis represented “a defining challenge for Europe” which was still wrestling with a prolonged debt crisis and struggling to absorb a vast unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees.