Will Pope Francis reprimand Europe?
Pope Francis will receive the Charlemagne Prize in the Vatican today for his services in promoting European unity. In addition to top EU politicians Juncker and Schulz, the national heads of government Merkel and Renzi will also attend the ceremony. These are the last politicians who still believe in Europe, commentators write, and predict that Francis will remind Europeans of the responsibility they bear for the joint project.
Europe has Alzheimer's
Avvenire predicts that Pope Francis will return to the theme of his speech before the parliament in Strasbourg two years ago, in which he complained about an elderly and haggard Europe:
“'Grandmother' Europe is suffering from Alzheimer's. In view of recent developments we are faced with the image of an old Europe which, afflicted by huge lapses of memory, is once again building fences. A Europe that is burying the old wisdom of its founding fathers, the great ideals of its soul and of 'the humanist spirit it still loves', as Pope Francis admonished in Strasbourg. … For a disoriented Europe suffering from memory loss, the momentous refugee problem represents an opportunity to reflect and try to understand what it is and what we citizens expect of it. This is a question of the joint responsibility of all its citizens and not just of the politicians.”
The last Europeans gather in Rome
The leading politicians attending the award ceremony and the pope himself are the last people who still believe in Europe, La Repubblica laments:
“Compared to the financial crisis the refugee crisis is having a far more devastating political impact. … Because it is rousing demons that call Europe's very foundations into question: the principle of solidarity, the principle of divided state sovereignty, and even the principle of humanitarianism which for decades we mistakenly regarded as unassailable. This meeting in Rome of the last leaders who still proudly defend these principles and are still willing to campaign against growing populism highlights the extent to which Europe has shrunk. … This could be the image of a sad ending. However it could also be the image of the fresh start the pope is calling for, but which today seems as problematic as it is inevitable.”