STRASBOURG, France — Pope Francis said Tuesday that brotherhood and a spirit of mutual service are needed to overcome conflict, telling the Council of Europe that both the continent and Christianity have special roles to play in this work.
“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,” Pope Francis said Nov. 25.
Pope Francis said achieving peace calls for the banishment of “a culture of conflict” aimed at “fear of others” or “marginalizing those who think or live differently than ourselves.”
“It is true that conflict cannot be ignored or concealed; it has to be faced. But if it paralyzes us, we lose perspective, our horizons shrink, and we grasp only a part of reality. When we fail to move forward in a situation of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality, we halt history, and we become enmeshed in useless disputes.”
The Strasbourg-headquartered Council of Europe is an international cooperative body dedicated to advancing human rights, combating corruption and terrorism and advocating other legal reforms.
Pope Francis addressed many members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, representatives of its 47 member states, the judges of the European Court of Human Rights and other members of Council of Europe institutions.
‘The Christian Vision’
“In the Christian vision, peace is at once a gift of God and the fruit of free and reasonable human acts aimed at pursuing the common good in truth and love,” the Pope explained.
For Christianity, he said, “faith and reason, religion and society are called to enlighten and support one another and, whenever necessary, to purify one another from ideological extremes.”
“European society as a whole cannot fail to benefit from a renewed interplay between these two sectors, whether to confront a form of religious fundamentalism, which is above all inimical to God, or to remedy a reductive rationality which does no honor to man.”
The Pope said the Council of Europe’s efforts to seek political solutions to crises are “so significant and encouraging.” He praised the Council of Europe’s promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
However, he lamented that violations of peace continue and that various world conflicts “continue to fester.”
“It is also the case here in Europe, where tensions continue to exist. How great a toll of suffering and death is still being exacted on this continent, which yearns for peace yet so easily falls back into the temptations of the past!”
The Pope denounced religious and international terrorism’s “deep disdain for human life,” adding that such terrorism is frequently funded by the arms trade. He said that human trafficking also violates peace and is “the new slavery of our age.” He also spoke of the need to welcome migrants and to address the “grave” problem of young-adult unemployment, deeming this “a veritable mortgage on the future” that affects “the dignity of work.”
The Council of Europe’s founders, he said, “understood that peace was a good which must continually be attained, one which calls for constant vigilance.” They aimed “to rebuild Europe in a spirit of mutual service.” This spirit, he said, “must be the cornerstone of the Council of Europe’s mission on behalf of peace, freedom and human dignity.”
Pope Francis also stressed the importance of Europe’s responsibility “to contribute to the cultural development of humanity.”
He said European cultural progress derives from the “profound roots” that are “nourished by truth,” which appeals to conscience.
Pope Francis warned against separating individuality and human rights from the “pursuit of truth.” An individualistic conception of rights “leads to an effective lack of concern for others and favors that globalization of indifference born of selfishness, the result of a conception of man incapable of embracing the truth and living an authentic social dimension.”
“This kind of individualism leads to human impoverishment and cultural aridity, since it effectively cuts off the nourishing roots on which the tree grows. Indifferent individualism leads to the cult of opulence reflected in the throwaway culture all around us.”
Pope Francis said that Europe has been hurt by its past ordeals and present crises and seems to have lost its former vitality and energy. He described a Europe that is “a bit tired and pessimistic, which feels besieged by events and winds of change coming from other continents.”
He called for creativity in globalizing Europe’s multi-polar cultures that is free of “pretentions to power” that end up “destroying the cultural and religious distinctiveness of peoples.”
The Pope encouraged intercultural dialogue and social and economic cooperation “free of ideological pressures,” while being capable of “confronting a globalized world” and of encouraging “that sense of solidarity and mutual charity which has been a distinctive feature of Europe.”
Pope Francis had addressed the seat of the European Parliament, which sets European Union laws and policy, earlier on Tuesday, telling the legislators that a pursuit of true human rights is essential, “since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed and who can then be discarded when no longer useful due to weakness, illness or old age.”