By Cindy Wooden
STRASBOURG, France (CNS) – The project of European unity and cooperation, ensuring peace on the continent and helping others find peace as well, requires a real commitment to dialogue and respect for others, Pope Francis said.
While the pope did not specifically mention the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, both members of the Council of Europe, he told council members that a “great toll of suffering and death is still being enacted on this continent.”
Visiting European institutions in Strasbourg Nov. 25, the pope marked the 65th anniversary of the 47-member Council of Europe, which was formed to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law on the continent in the wake of the destruction and division sown by World War II.
Where is Europe’s energy, idealism and constant search for truth, he asked members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, ambassadors from the 47 member states, the 47 judges of the European Court of Human Rights and other guests, including representatives of the religions present in member countries.
“Europe should reflect on whether its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic and religious patrimony is simply an artifact of the past or whether it is still capable of inspiring culture and displaying its treasures to mankind as a whole,” he said.
“In a world more prone to make demands than to serve,” he said, helping one another and promoting a peaceful resolution of conflicts must be at the heart of the Council of Europe’s agenda.
“The royal road to peace – and to avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two world wars of the last century – is to see others not as enemies to be opposed, but as brothers and sisters to be embraced,” the pope said.
Pope Francis told the Council of Europe, as he had told the European Parliament earlier in the day, he realizes members of the Catholic Church in Europe have not always been blameless, but that the Church constantly commits itself to serving others better, a commitment that government and international organizations must make as well.
He pleaded with the European institutions to be more serious and creative about increasing employment, particularly for the young. The high rate of unemployment among young people – averaging 20 percent across the 28 member countries of the European Union – is “a veritable mortgage on the future,” he said.
“Achieving the good of peace,” he said, “first calls for educating to peace, banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalizing those who think or live differently than ourselves.”
Using the international forum of the Council of Europe, Pope Francis condemned “religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims.”
“This phenomenon,” he said, “is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons.”
The call to peace, Pope Francis said, first involves stopping violence, but it goes deeper and the Council of Europe project is to sow peace through the promotion and protection of human rights.