Vatican City, May 6, 2016 / 06:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As he received the prestigious Charlemagne Prize Friday, Pope Francis laid out his vision for a renewed European continent in what could easily be his own version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech.
In the May 6 address Francis said “I dream of a new European humanism” – one based on a 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 that European leaders “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.
“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,” he said.
He 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 fa Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all,” he said, and voiced his hope for a Europe “of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.”
Pope Francis received the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen inside the Vatican’s Sala Regia as an award for his for efforts toward the unification of Europe – an event which drew leaders from across Europe to discuss the state of the European Union.
Founded in 1950 by Dr. Kurt Pfeiffer, the Charlemagne Prize is “the oldest and best-known prize awarded for work done in the service of European unification,” according to the organization’s website.
The announcement of Pope Francis’ selection for the 2016 prize was initially made in December 2015.
He is the second religious leader to receive the prize, the first being St. John Paul II, who in 2004 was awarded an “extraordinary” version of the prize, while the ordinary version that year was given to Irish politician Patrick Cox.
While the ceremony for awarding the prize is typically held in Aachen on the Feast of the Ascension, an exception was made for Pope Francis, who requested to hold festivities in the Vatican. The same was done for St. John Paul II when he received an extraordinary version of the prize.
Present at Pope Francis’ reception of the Charlemagne Prize were Marcel Philipp, mayor of Aachen; Martin Schulz, president of European Parliament; Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, who had a private audience with the Pope before the conferral ceremony began.
Schulz, Juncker and Tusk met with Pope Francis in a private audience before the ceremony began. They each offered brief remarks at the beginning of the event before the Pope himself spoke.
Other guests present included past winners of the prize such as Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio community; King Felipe of Spain; Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania; and Patrick Cox, former president of European Parliament and German chancellor Angela Merkel, who was awarded the prize in 2008, and who also met with the Pope in a private audience before the celebration.
In his lengthy, wide-spread speech, Pope Francis echoed ideas similar to those he expressed during his Nov. 25, 2014 visit to Strasbourg where he spoke to both the European Parliament and Council, urging a “grandmother Europe” go back to her foundational values.
He told the various political leaders and heads of state present that “creativity, genius and a capacity for rebirth and renewal are part of the soul of Europe,” but that the energetic efforts for unity that arose after World War Two and the Cold War have since deflated.
“There is an impression that Europe is declining, that it has lost its ability to be innovative and creative, and that it is more concerned with preserving and dominating spaces than with generating processes of inclusion and change,” he said.
Rather than being open to new social projects capable of engaging all individuals and groups, the continent is becoming increasingly “entrenched,” he said, and echoed the words of writer Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, who said that we need a major “memory transfusion.”
He stressed the need to go back and listen to the voice of Europe’s forefathers, “were prepared to pursue alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war.”
Pointing to French statesman Robert Schuman, the Pope echoed his insistence at the birth of the first European Community that the continent couldn’t be built all at once, but “through concrete achievements which first create a ‘de facto solidarity.’”
“Today, in our own world, marked by so much conflict and suffering, there is a need to return to the same ‘de facto solidarity’ and concrete generosity that followed the Second World War,” he said.
“Today more than ever, their vision inspires us to build bridges and tear down walls. That vision urges us not to be content with cosmetic retouches or convoluted compromises aimed at correcting this or that treaty, but courageously to lay new and solid foundations.”
Francis pointed to the ability to integrate, dialogue and generate, which he said are key capacities that will assist in the “update” of the European continent.
He stressed the need to combine various levels of diversity in order for a “healthy coexistence,” explaining that “forms of reductionism and attempts at uniformity, far from generating value, condemn our peoples to a cruel poverty: the poverty of exclusion.”
“Far from bestowing grandeur, riches and beauty, exclusion leads to vulgarity, narrowness, and cruelty. Far from bestowing nobility of spirit, it brings meanness,” he said, and stressed the need for an integral solidarity based on Europe’s “dynamic and multicultural identity.”
The Pope also stressed the importance of cultural integration, rather than merely resettling foreigners geographically, allowing European peoples to overcome “the temptation of falling back on unilateral paradigms and opting for forms of ideological colonization.”
Francis advocated for a culture of dialogue involving “a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to.”
“Today we urgently need to build coalitions that are not only military and economic, but cultural, educational, philosophical and religious,” he said, and encouraged the leaders to arm their people “with the culture of dialogue and encounter.”
Pope Francis stressed that “no one can remain a mere onlooker or bystander” in the process, but that everyone, from the smallest to the greatest, has an active role to play.
Youth in particular have a special role, he said, and encouraged the creation of new employment opportunities for the youth as well as a just distribution of the earth’s resources.
To create dignified, well-paying jobs “requires coming up with new, more inclusive and equitable economic models, aimed not at serving the few, but at benefiting ordinary people and society as a whole,” he said.
Doing this “calls for moving from a liquid economy to a social economy,” he said, and pointed to the social market economy described by St. John Paul II’s Nov. 8, 1990, speech to the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany.
“It would involve passing from an economy directed at revenue, profiting from speculation and lending at interest, to a social economy that invests in persons by creating jobs and providing training,” he said, adding that “we need to move from a liquid economy prepared to use corruption as a means of obtaining profits to a social economy that guarantees access to land and lodging through labor.”
The Church also has a role to play in this regard through her mission of proclaiming the Gospel and binding the wounds of humanity, Francis said, adding that that the effort Christians put toward full unity is “a great sign of the times and a response to the Lord’s prayer that they may all be one.”
Pope Francis closed his speech by voicing his dream for “a new European humanism” based on the welcome for foreigners, care for the poor, and respect for human life and dignity.
Lima, Peru, May 6, 2016 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A number of Latin American pro-life leaders haver criticized a recent statement by the head of the Organization of American States, who is encouraging abortion access for pregnant women infected with the Zika virus.
The abortion push demonstrates the “eugenics mentality” of the international organization, according to one commentator.
In an April 26 statement the secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, described the Zika outbreak in various Latin American countries as “an opportunity for equal rights” and stated that in cases of infected pregnant women, “the legal interruption of pregnancy would be justifiable.”
This justification, Almagro explained, is based on “the risk to the life of the mother from the perspective of her dignity, the material conditions of her life and existence, but above all, her ability to make autonomous decisions about her life and health and the future of her offspring and the nuclear family.”
The OAS is an organization of all 35 independent states o the Americas which aims to promote democracy, human rights, security, and development.
The first case of the Zika virus in the Americas was recorded in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, the virus has spread across Latin America and into the United States.
The Zika virus is most often transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Infection does not usually cause serious illness, but it is widely agreed that the virus is linked to microcephaly, a disorder in which children are born with abnormally small heads, and often delayed brain development. The infection appears to be passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn child.
Speaking to CNA, Jesús Magaña of the Colombian citizen platform United for Life, said in response to the OAS secretary general's statement that “we're again witnessing the resurgence of a eugenics mentality.”
For Magaña, the OAS wants to take advantage of the Zika epidemic “not with a view to the health of the most defenseless and vulnerable populations, of the poorest women, but rather to destroy the children of the poor, to get rid of poverty through destruction, by aborting the poor.”
And Luis Losada Pescador, director of campaigns for the international pro-life platform CitizenGo, also criticized that the OAS “in its statement talks about 'taking advantage of the opportunity' for what they call 'equal rights.' That is to say, they recognize that it's a matter of an excuse to promote abortion in the region.”
“Where is the right to life recognized in Article IV of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights? Do the (member) states agree that this international organization can bypass the mandates, to follow an ideological agenda?” he questioned.
Marcos León, vice president of the Pro-Life Generation in Paraguay, called “a complete disgrace” the fact that the OAS secretary general is demonstrating adherence with those promoting “the abortion culture, and even more so, while he heads up an organization whose main objective is to defend people's fundamental rights.”
“It's intolerable that in face of a problem like Zika, whose the real solution is found in prevention policies and eliminating the vector mosquito based on educating the citizenry and raising their awareness, that the voluntary elimination of human beings again be proposed as a 'solution or palliation' of the evils caused by this illness,” he stated.
“You can't talk about the right to kill a human being just because it's temporarily in the mother's womb, who is so defenseless that it can't defend itself and needs us adults,” said Karla Martínez del Rosal de Rodríguez, of the Pro-Life Pastoral Ministry of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Guatemala.
For the Guatemalan pro-life leader, “ you can't talk about equality if your right to life is decided upon in an arbitrary fashion; life is the most fundamental of rights, recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ratified by the Pact of San José [of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights].”
Julia Regina de Cardenal, of the El Salvador Yes to Life Foundation, pointed out that the real figures disprove that the cases of microcephaly connected to Zika are numerous.
According to the BBC, it is estimated that one percent of women who had Zina during pregnancy will have a child with microcephaly. Brazilian doctors, however, “have told the BBC that as many as 20% of Zika-affected pregnancies will result in a range of other forms of brain damage to the baby in the womb.”
Regina de Cardenal charged that “The pro-abortion lobby is exploiting this health crisis to legalize the abortion industry,” and recalled that “the unborn baby has the right to life, even when it may have an illness or birth defects.”
Sara Larín, president of the VIDA SV movement in El Salvador, said that this “is not the first time the OAS is using fear tactics in order to impose abortion in Latin American countries.”
“They did it with the overpopulation issue, and now with a great deal of opportunism they're using the health crisis surrounding Zika to instill fear concerning pregnant women,” she said.
The president of the pro-life platform ArgentinosAlerta, Martín Patrito, warned that “we're dealing with bad policy, a lot of ideology, and a little science on the part of international organizations like the OAS and the World Health Organization.”
“Microcephaly has numerous causes, there are a lot of other viruses that can cause it and the impact of a lot of pesticides has still not been studied. And in any case, you have to fight the mosquito, not the children.”
The Zika outbreak has also led to debate in the US over the Helms Amendment, which bars US government aid from funding abortions when given to overseas groups working with reproductive health.
A vaccine for Zika has yet to be developed, but there are suggestions that infecting mosquitos with a bacterium could help prevent them from spreading Zika.