By Vatican News staff writer
Europe needs new policies to better cater to the needs of our brothers and sisters on the move and it needs to rediscover its Christian identity as it strives to build a peaceful and just future. These are concepts expressed by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, as he spoke with gratitude of Pope Francis’ letter marking a series of important anniversaries that define the European continent as we know it.
Cardinal Hollerich, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE) was commenting on the Pope’s letter to Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on Tuesday. In it, the Pope retraces the history and values of Europe and talks of his dream for fraternity and solidarity among nations amid a period marked by individualistic tendencies.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Hollerich expresses how “thrilled” he is that Pope Francis, “a Pope [from] outside of the European continent, has such a wonderful undertsnding of Europe and can give us such an encouragement.”
There are “so many” policies that need to be considered, says the Cardinal highlighting that one issue the Holy Father mentions in his letter as he looks to the “Europe of the future” is the welcoming of migrants “and the people who have to leave their countries” for various reasons.
Cardinal Hollerich recalls numerous reports COMECE has received over the last few days, specifically mentioning news regarding the actions of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, “at the Greek border, pushing people back into the Mediterranean sea, next to the Libyan border”.
“Surely their policies must change”, he says.
Cardinal Hollerich continues by stating that “it is more than a change of policy” that is needed. What needs to change, he says, is how we view the European Union: it is important to “gain a spirit of the founders and have a full view of Europe”.
“We should never forget that Schuman chose to start with the economic part of European integration”, says Hollerich. Though this economic aspect has “developed very much”, he says, there lies the “great danger of the European Union” being reduced from a vision of “European integration to mere economics”, and that could lead to a “reduction of men and women to simple agents of the economy or consumers”.
Cardinal Hollerich expresses joy at hearing Pope Francis say that Europe needs to rediscover its identity. He explains that, to him, this means that “We have a history, and not everything is bad”. Noting that there are “many” bad points, such as the two great wars of the last century, Hollerich states that “we are not the slaves of history”. There is so much that Europe can give to the world, and we must do this with “a new humility,” something that must be done “together, with our sisters and brothers of other continents.”
Finally, Archbishop Hollerich says “I think it’s beautiful that the Pope highlights a certain European identity which stems from culture and religion – also the cultural part of religion – but which does not linger to the past like a slave.”
“We can build a future.”, he concludes: “We are called to build a future. Not only for us, but for the whole world.”