While the risk of getting accustomed to the war that has broken out in the heart of Christian Europe with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, is present, some do not tire, combining prophecy and realism, of calling for peace by reminding nations and peoples — and Europe in particular — of their responsibilities.
Right at the beginning of his trip to Portugal, where he arrived to celebrate World Youth Day, Pope Francis spoke about the role of the Old Continent, expressing the hope that it will not forget its identity but will be capable of proposing creative pathways for peace and diplomatic solutions instead of accepting the idea of the inevitability of war and the arms race.
The Successor of Peter noted how “planetary injustice, wars, climate and migration crises (...) run faster than our ability, and often our will, to confront these challenges in a united way”.
But he added that “Lisbon may suggest a change of pace” since it was here, in 2007, that the eponymous Reform Treaty of the European Union was signed, stating that the Union “in its relations with the rest of the world contributes to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, the elimination of poverty and the protection of human rights”.
Pope Francis said that the “world needs Europe, the true Europe: it needs its role as a bridge and peacemaker in its eastern part, in the Mediterranean, in Africa and in the Middle East”. Only in this way will Europe be able to bring to the international scene “its specific contribution”, which is struggling to emerge in the current historical juncture.
There is a need to develop “a diplomacy of peace aimed at settling conflicts and lessening tensions, attentive to the slightest signals of distension and reading between the most crooked lines”. Looking at today’s reality without ideological blinders, one must recognize that this is not happening.
That is why the Pope addresses questions to Europe: “‘Where are you sailing if you are not showing the world paths of peace, creative ways for bringing an end to the war in Ukraine and to the many conflicts causing so much bloodshed’? Or again, to widen the scope, we might ask: ‘West, on what course are you sailing’? Your technologies, which have brought progress and globalized the world are not by themselves sufficient, much less your highly sophisticated weapons, which do not represent investments for the future but a depletion of its authentic human capital: that of education, health, the welfare state. It is troubling when we read that in many places funds continue to be invested in arms rather than in the future of the young”.
What else needs to happen for Europe to shake up and reappropriate itself of its role?
According to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, as of February 22, 2023, the invasion has claimed the lives of 9,655 civilians, including 461 children; injured 12,829 civilians, including 926 children; and been the occasion of more than 68,000 war crimes, including 2,600 committed against children.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (unhcr) estimates that 8.1 million people were displaced in Europe by the end of February 2023. Entire areas of Ukraine have been destroyed, polluted or mined. This tragedy must end, first with a truce and then with a just peace.
But Pope Francis does not give up looking to the future with hope: “I dream of a Europe, the heart of the West, which employs its immense talents to settling conflicts and lighting lamps of hope; a Europe capable of recovering its youthful heart, looking to the greatness of the whole and beyond its immediate needs; a Europe inclusive of peoples and persons, together with their own cultures, without chasing after ideologies and forms of ideological colonization”.
He deserves to be heard, before it is too late. ( a.t. )
By Andrea Tornielli