Pope’s Europe Speech a Boost to Anti-Brexit Campaign

EU leaders pleased that Pope Francis called for European unity, not division.

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VATICAN CITY — Nigel Baker has a reputation in the Vatican for being an efficient British ambassador to the Holy See. He had plenty of reason to celebrate on Friday as it appeared that his political message had made it all the way up to Pope Francis.

The Pontiff on Friday gave a speech on Europe that the bloc’s leaders hope will convince citizens — including Brits — that the EU is worth fighting for, according to senior EU officials.

The high-profile audience was a sign of the influence a Papal word has in Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was present as were Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and several heads of state, from Spain’s King Felipe to Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

“The Pope’s speech impressed me enormously,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz told reporters after the ceremony. “He spoke truth about Europe.”

And, thankfully for Schulz, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk, the Pope refrained from criticizing the EU institutions’ representatives who were there to praise him as he was awarded the Charlemagne Prize for “work done on the European unification.”

Baker’s mission was clear: Don’t let the Pope give ammunition to the pro-Brexit campaign. The wider concern of the EU institutions’ presidents, according to aides, was: Don’t let the Pope speak about the bloc being weak and unable to tackle the tough issues, migration included.

During the ceremony in the Apostolic Palace’s 16th century Sala Regia, Pope Francis delivered a speech that was in line with the critical line he had previously taken on Europe’s policies, but with a softer message that leaders were pleased to hear.

“What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?” the Pope 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?”

Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he delivers his 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing message from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the end of the Easter Mass on April 5, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican | Franco Origlia/Getty Images

“I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life. 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,” the Pope said. The reference to Europe as “a mother” was an improvement on a speech he gave to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 2014, when he called Europe “a grandmother, no longer fertile.”
Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he delivers his ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing message from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica at the end of the Easter Mass on April 5, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican | Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Schulz said he interpreted the speech as criticism of those in Europe who thought migration was a German problem, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and those who would not allow Muslims to come to their “Christian” country, such as Slovakia’s Robert Fico.

The Pope, who had brought 12 Syrian Muslims back with him from a recent trip to the Greek island of Lesvos, said he dreamt “of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being.”

After the speeches were over, Juncker told journalists he would make sure the Pope’s remarks would be heard all across Europe. Slovak and Hungarian translations of the Pope’s words had been prepared, an official traveling with the president said, in a clear dig at Orbán and Fico.

The Commission president stressed that “Europe is more than institutions, indicators or processes.” Europe, he said, was for the young. “Europe is the student studying abroad under the Erasmus network” that is said to have led to “one million marriages.”

“We will hear more from him [Juncker] about the young in the coming weeks”, an EU official said. “The young generation in the U.K. is the most convinced of Europe, data show.”

However, there were no young Brits in the Vatican to hear him speak, but plenty of Germans.

Congratulations to DuPont Manual High School!

2016 Academic WorldQuest™ Competition, 5th Place: DuPont Manual High School
World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana

Team members: Shravan Ravishankar, Madan Subheeswar, Abilash Thout, Mark Raj; Coach: Esther Tamplin

Congratulations to Coach Esther Tamplin and the team from DuPont Manual High School! This team placed 5th overall at the World Affairs Councils of America’s 2016 Academic WorldQuest™ Competition! The competition was held in Washington D.C. on Saturday, April 23, 2016. They competed against 200+ high school students from across the country in a thrilling competition testing their knowledge of international affairs. Competition topics included:  NATO, Asian matters for America, international trade and finance, the Sultanate of Oman, privacy in the digital age, the Arctic, global food security, the organization of American states, great decisions, and other topics relating to current events.

The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana is proud to have had this accomplished team represent our council at this year’s competition! Congratulations to their coach, Esther Tamplin, and the team! What a fantastic job!

Interested in learning more about Academic WorldQuest™? Visit our Academic WorldQuest™ Page for more info!