“I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime,” rather than what exists today, which is a Europe building “walls” and “trenches” around itself.
With these words, Pope Francis greeted European leaders who rushed to the Vatican on Friday to attend the pontiff’s reception of the international “Charlemagne” prize, the recognition bestowed every year in the city of Aachen — where the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned and where the remains of Charlemagne, the first “European” emperor, are buried in the cathedral — to individuals who excel in furthering European values. The decision to give the award to Bergoglio was based on his “extraordinary commitment to peace, understanding and mercy in a European society of values.”
In his acceptance speech, Francis compared Europe to a barren grandma, “tired and aged,” reviving an expression he had used during his visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in November 2014. A Europe that has lost the “high ideals” of its founders — he quoted Schuman and De Gasperi, but not Altiero Spinelli — “a Europe tempted to secure and dominate spaces rather than create a processes of inclusion and transformation,” a Europe “that is building trenches instead of favoring actions that promote new energies in the society.”