Pope Francis has stressed the need for pluralistic European Union (EU) based on solidarity as antidote to populism in a speech to 27 EU leaders on Friday.
The leaders attended an audience with Francis in the Vatican ahead of Saturday’s celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the bloc’s founding document in Rome in 1957.
He said “solidarity is the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism, which are the fruits of egotism and offer narrow-minded view of the world.
“You are called on to blaze the path of a new European humanism; the bloc must pull together to invest in development, job creation, decent wages and dignified living conditions for all.
“The return to Rome must not simply be a remembrance of things of the past,’’ said the pontiff, an outspoken supporter of the EU.
He said that the Union brought about “the longest period of peace experienced in recent centuries.’’
He, however, cautioned that “the EU must not just be a set of rules to obey out of economic and financial necessity, but a way of life based on values and ideals.
“Wherever ideals are lost, there is fertile ground for every form of extremism,” he warned.
The pontiff, a staunch defender of refugee rights, said that the immigration crisis should not be handled as if it were “a mere numerical or economic problem, or a question of security.”
European Parliament Chief, Antonio Tajani, European Council Head, Donald Tusk and European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, were in attendance, along with leaders of the 27 EU countries.