Messages of a non-European Pope in Strasbourg

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Messages of a non-European Pope in Strasbourg

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

Pope Francis, by the way, is the first non-European pope, who addressed Europe, 28 countries with a population of 500 million, in both provocative and divine ways. He was provocative when he reiterated in both speeches: “O Europe you are lost. You have become like an ageing grandmother who is no longer fertile and vigor as was the norm before with regards to the Euro-international silence towards violations of human dignity in several locations.''

Here he shed light on two hot issues namely the issue of immigrants to whom the Mediterranean Sea became their cemetery, according to him, due to the sinking of their boats.

The second issue, which concerns us in our capacity as residents of the Middle East, is the persecution being practised against the Christians in some countries which the Pope did not name. But we understand, at this difficult period, he meant Christians of the East, particularly in Iraq and Syria as well as the displaced because of their faith. He definitely did not miss in his mind "Asia Bibi, the "imprisoned lady who was sentenced to death on blasphemy charge in Pakistan, the country in which a couple was burned alive days ago.

The Pope's speeches were interrupted with applause as the audience stood and clapped in tribute to him. The president of the European Council said: "The Pope is welcomed as head of state. The Holy See or the Vatican is officially recognized worldwide and is considered one of the states of the European Union." The Vatican national anthem was played as a sign of respect. The European anthem or rather Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was also played.
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Secondly, the Pope was welcomed as a high-ranking clergyman and a spiritual leader of more than 1.3 billion million people in the world who appreciate the core values he came to talk about. This Pope is the supporter of the poor, the marginalized, and the suffering.

The Pope concentrated in his speech at the European Parliament on human dignity, and the need to be respected since the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. He also focused on the sublime nature of dignity not only at the normal level, but also at the level of divine enlightenment which God placed in the heart of every man .He called on Europe not to forget its spiritual roots, stressing that the Church or the Holy See will remain supportive of the orientations of goodness. He reassured the European Union that the voice of the Church in the world of today "being as a dough in humanity,"--according to Blessed Paul VI-- would not threaten the secular systems of many countries as some view religion as a threat to their independence. Yet, the Pope pointed out that the voice of religion benefits in raising awareness and focusing on the core values and maintaining them.

At the European Council, the Pope was frank and clear. He talked about wars, arms trade, as well as the need to create peace, which is still absent, and not waiting for it to be attained on its own. He concentrated on two points, namely ethnic and religious polarity calling for never viewing differences in views as differences. He urged for considering common values in order to bring about a better future for Europe, and through Europe to the world as a whole.
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The Pope also focused on values he borrowed, according to him, from his meetings with several politicians lately, namely the pain of young politicians, and the non-acceptance of veteran politicians. He called for respect of differences when holding dialogues (using the term transversality) in an atmosphere of dialogue, and coining the term generational dialogue.

Furthermore, the Pope addresses two European institutions, where his addresses were not restricted to the Europeans but to the whole world as well as to us in the East. We are more pained from divisions than other peoples do. But that does not prevent us from meditation to reflect on the human and spiritual core values uttered by the Pope to the representatives of Europe. Dignity is sacred and dialogue is required, and this does not concern only the Europeans.

It is to be said that Pope Francis' visit to Strasburg took place just two days before his visit to Turkey where he will meet with the ecumenical patriarch following his meetings with the country's political leaders. He will visit the Blue Mosque, stand at the border with the scene of violence raging in Iraq and Syria and undoubtedly reiterate what he had said at the European Parliament and the Council of Europe: Human dignity is the prime importance.

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