The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will go toStrasbourg to address the EuropeanParliament on November 25.
Francis will be the second pope to visit Strasbourg afterJohn Paul II, who addressedthe Parliament on October 11, 1988. At that time, just a year before the fallof the Berlin Wall, John Paul underscored the Christian roots that undergird Europeanculture and society and made an impassioned appeal for freedom of conscienceand religious liberty.
This will be Pope Francis’ fifth international trip, afterBrazil in the summer of 2013, the Holy Land last spring, South Korea in Augustand Albania this coming September 21.
The visit, which had already been announcedby the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, was confirmedyesterday by the director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi. Programdetails have yet to be determined, said Fr Lombardi, who further clarified thatthe trip will not constitute an official visit to France, but rather to theEuropean Parliament, though the spokesman did not rule out other possible invitationswithin France.
President Schulz had extended the invitation to Pope Francison the occasion of his official visit to the Vatican on October 11, 2013. Afterhis meeting with the Pope, he had explained his reasons for inviting the Pope:
Today we live in a globalized world in which the EuropeanUnion ought to play a role of promoting greater justice and greatercooperation. It should be instrumental in the creation of a more just andequitable world. And the place where all of this is discussed is the European Parliament.The Holy See and the Pope have an enormous impact on the world debate regardingthe changes we need. A man with this much influence and importance should takethe floor in the midst of the forum where Europe’s role in the world isdiscussed. This is the reason I have sought to convince Pope Francis to addressthe European Parliament.
Yesterday Schulz sent the news out by Twitteras well: “I am honored to be able to welcome Pope Francis to the EuropeanParliament for an official visit on Novermber 25,” he wrote.
By that time, however, Jean-Claude Juncker, a former primeminister of Luxembourg, will have assumed the presidency of the EuropeanUnion’s executive branch, if he is confirmed by the Parliament. On Wednesday,Juncker named his teamfor the upcoming term.
Mr. Juncker’s nominees are subject to approval by theParliament, which is expected to hold hearings on each appointee, though they canonly accept or reject the entire team, rather than pick and choose from amonghis nominations.
Inlate August the Italian foreign minister, Federica Mogherini was tapped as theEuropean Union’s foreign policy chief despite concerns that she was tooinexperienced. Her selection was aided by a strong push from Italy’s PrimeMinister, Matteo Renzi; Italy currently holds the rotating presidency of theEuropean Union.