Pope Francis received the prestigious European Charlemagne Prize on Friday 6 May in recognition of his efforts at global peace, cross-cultural understanding and unity of Europe.
Speaking at the conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, Pope Francis laid out his vision for a renewed European continent in what could have been his own version of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Pope Francis said “I dream of a new European humanism” – one based on fresh ideas and a revamped economy that promotes integration and respect for human dignity.
“Europe has become tired and entrenched”, he said, and voiced hope that the continent’s leaders would be able to “draw inspiration from the past in order to confront with courage the complex multipolar framework of our own day.”
He asked European leaders to “take up with determination the challenge of updating the idea of Europe”, a Europe capable of giving birth to “a new humanism” based on the core abilities to integrate, dialogue and generate new ideas and solutions to complex modern issues.
Pope Francis said “I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life. I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything”.
Addressing the crisis of migration and refugees Pope Francis expressed his desire for 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,” and where youth can “breathe the pure air of honesty” in a culture that is “undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism.”
The Pope said he also longed for a culture in which “getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to the lack of stable employment. I dream of a Europe of families, with truly effective policies concentrated on faces rather than numbers, on birth rates more than rates of consumption.”
“I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all,” he said, and he voiced his hope for a Europe “of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.”
Click here to read the full text of the Pope’s address.
The Charlemagne prize has been awarded annually since 1950 by the German city of Aachen to people who contributed to the ideals upon which it has been founded. It commemorates Charlemagne, ruler of the Frankish Empire and founder of what became the Holy Roman Empire, who resided and is buried at Aachen.
Some Previous winners of the prize include Juan Carlos of Spain (1982), The People of Luxembourg (1986), and, Bill Clinton (2000). In 2004 Pat Cox from Ireland was the recipient and Saint John Paul II was also presented with the award (extraordinary prize) in 2004.