Pope Francis reprimands European leaders over migrant crisis

By Martin Smith  |  May 6, 2016 at 10:20 AM
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ROME, May 6 (UPI) -- In a speech reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, Pope Francis criticized European leaders for their handling of the migrant crisis.

As he accepted the prestigious Charlemagne Prize on Friday for his work on behalf of European unity, the pontiff asked: "What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?"

Speaking to an audience that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Spain's King Felipe VI, he complained that the continent's people "are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences."

And he declared: "I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime, but a summons to a greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being.

"I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties toward all. I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia."

The Pope said that he wanted a Europe that cares for children, the elderly, the poor and the infirm, as well as "those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter."

He also called for new economic models that are "more inclusive and equitable."

"There is an impression that Europe is declining, that it has lost its ability to be innovative and creative, that it is more concerned with preserving and dominating spaces than with generating processes of inclusions and change," Francis said.

He urged Europeans to undergo a "memory transfusion," citing a phrase by Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, to remember Europe's fractured past, especially when confronting issues that threaten once again to divide it.

"A memory transfusion can free us from today's temptation to build hastily on the shifting sands of immediate results, which may produce quick and easy short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fulfillment," he said.

The Pope ended his speech with a vision of a Europe where "being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being."

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