Meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis

Strasbourg , 

Your Holiness,

Welcome to the Council of Europe, the House of Democracy.

We greet you as Head of State.  We thank you for the great support the Holy See as an Observer State has given to the Council of Europe throughout the years.

We also greet you as a spiritual leader whose wisdom is respected and followed.  You are a source of inspiration and direction for many millions of Europeans.

After the horrific wars on this continent, the world had to move away from nationalism towards internationalism.  The sovereignty of the nation state and the power of the majority inside nation States had to be restrained and subordinated to some basic human rights.

These rights are natural rights, they come from the mere fact that we are human beings and we have set up a huge machinery here in Strasbourg with the Court of Human rights on top of it, to secure these rights.  The centre of all our activities is the human beings, the ordinary men and women.  The court allows every European to seek justice against it own State.

We give power to the powerless, voices to the voiceless.

We do what your great predecessor Saint John Paul II said, when he spoke here 26 years ago, “to consolidate the sense of a common good”.

This is why we appreciate so much that you, your Holiness, put human beings at the centre of your considerations.  You said “we must always consider the person”.  Religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age cannot serve as grounds for limiting a person’s rights and sense of dignity.

And you said that “we need to include the excluded”.  The excluded people, be it unemployed young people, homeless people, immigrants, Roma people and other minorities who are being discriminated, are not a burden or a threat to society.  They are an enormous unused resource.  Look at the young people in our streets. They ask for a job so that they can raise their own children, contribute to society and rediscover their dignity through work.

Once we as political leaders recognize this, we have opened the avenue for solving many of the problems on our continent today.

We need values and a vision.  And the courage to look beyond the realities of today.

We saw this 25 years ago when the Berlin Wall came down .  The wall divided families and friends. Conventional wisdom said that the division of Europe was a matter of fact that could not be changed.  Some political leaders however, saw the suffering of people the wall caused and had a vision which went beyond the hard realities. This opened up for the reunification of the continent.

Your predecessor, Saint John Paul II became a great source of inspiration in this process.

Today, You Pope Francis, have become a new source of inspiration for all those who want to tear down new walls; between the powerless and the powerful, between the poor and the rich, between “us” and “the others”.

And by doing like you, care about people, we more clearly understand that the wall that is being built right now in Ukraine which is violating the integrity of the country and dividing individuals and families once again, is neither acceptable nor sustainable.

Your Holiness, values, faith, stamina will continue to tear down walls that divide us.  We must reinvigorate the idea of a common European House, a house built on justice.

We have a common cause.

You are a great inspiration.

It gives me a great honour and pleasure to invite you to address all our institutions.