In his acceptance speech for the prestigious International Charlemagne Award, Pope Francis decried Europe’s trend toward nationalism and tighter borders, repeating his mantra that humanity must “build bridges and tear down walls.”
Drawing rhetorical inspiration from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I have a Dream” speech, the Pope laid out his own dream for Europe on Friday, a Europe where the category of “illegal migrant” does not exist, and where all newcomers will receive “fraternal help.”
“I dream 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,” he said.
In the face of Europe’s renewed border controls and the erection of fences as a way of dealing with its migrant crisis, Francis said that Europe’s founding fathers were “heralds of peace and prophets of the future” and that their vision of Europe should inspire us “to build bridges and tear down walls.”
The founders’ “new and exciting desire to create unity seems to be fading,” Francis lamented, and “we, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there.”
After enumerating what he sees as modern Europe’s many deficiencies, Francis ended his address in a crescendo, with a nine-point dream for Europe’s future:
I dream of a new European humanism, one that involves a constant work of humanization and calls for memory, courage, and a healthy and humane utopian vision.
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 and need shelter.
I dream of a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless.
I dream 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.
I dream of a Europe where young people breathe the pure air of honesty, where they love the beauty of a culture and a simple life undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism, where getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to a 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.
I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome.