The Pope had some strong words for Europe's most important assembly: The European Parliament.
In his speech, he urged politicians and institutions to leave aside counterproductive bureaucratic models and instead to re-engage in the goal founders of the European Union had when they envisioned a future based on cooperation and fostering peace.
"At the heart of this ambitious political project is confidence in people, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in people, men and women who are endowed with transcendent dignity.”
Dignity was a theme he highlighted many times. Offenses against dignity come in many forms, he explained, from not being able to express one's faith publicly, to gender discrimination, unemployment and a lack of food.
It's transcendent human dignity, he added, because it trumps all other possible interests.
"I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of
As representatives of 28 countries, Pope Francis also reminded them, of the effects their decisions have and of their responsibility to serve and protect democracy.
"Keeping democracies alive is a challenge in the present historic moment. The true strength
of our democracies, understood as expressions of the political will of the people, must not be
allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires. This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today.”
The Pope then called on them to build and not just to manage. Recognizing human dignity isn't enough, he explained. They must take it a step further and promote family life, education, care for the environment and attention to immigration.
"Dear Members of the European Parliament, the time has come to work together in building
a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human
person, around inalienable values.”
At the end of his speech, the Parliament, which includes 751 legislators and who represent more than 500 million Europeans, gave the Pope this standing ovation.