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Behind the Pontiff's addresses in Strasbourg

· A monumental event in European history ·

The trip was short — extremely short — only about four hours on French soil. It was the shortest international visit by a Pontiff in history. There was very little ceremony, as all time was dedicated to two important addresses: one to the European Parliament and one to the Council of Europe. It was a monumental event in our history, an opportunity to point the way, to shake the conscience, to propose cooperation. Pope Francis spoke with strength to a “wounded” and “weary” Europe, asking that it rediscover its vigour and continue to contribute to the “cultural development” of humanity.

Pope Francis was there to speak to Europe as a whole, to institutions and peoples, to rulers and persons. One hundred years after the great war that devastated peoples and consciences and which earned the dreadful title of “world”, the call to battle has again been launched. This time it is not to conquer territory but to save man. Man, who asks for dignity, work, justice, solidarity, in a type of development which cannot be articulated exclusively by the rules of gain. Man, who must not be considered as merely an “economic agent”, but as a “person endowed with transcendent dignity”.

After the Vatican and European national anthems were played, Francis was driven to the protocol entrance, the Espace Mariana de Pineda, preceded by President Schulz. After introductions of the two Delegations, the 14 members of the Bureau of Parliament and the eight presidents of the assembly’s political groups, the Pope ascended to the first floor. There, he greeted Elma Schmidt, the German woman — now over 90 years old — who hosted him during his 1986 stay in Frankfurt am Main.

Then, in front of the Protocol Room, he signed the Golden Book of honoured guests, writing in his hand these words: “I hope the European Parliament will increasingly be a place where each of its members contributes to ensuring that Europe, aware of its past, looks to the future with confidence in order to live the present with hope”.

Maurizio Fontana

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St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 17, 2018

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