Pope Francis gave a wonderful message of hope to Europe and showed a most profound knowledge of Europe's challenges when he visited the European Parliament on November 25, 2014, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
The Holy Father, a Jesuit from South America, gave guidance to Europe, which is not strange considering our common Christian heritage.
The Pope praised the wisdom of the European Union’s founding fathers in launching a huge peace project. But he emphasised rightly, that unity does not mean uniformity and that the increasing harmonisation within the EU is detrimental to the great European idea and tradition.
Pope Francis also pointed out some of the weaknesses in Europe today. He highlighted loneliness caused by the disintegration of the idea of larger families, youth unemployment and Europe’s non-existent policy on fugitives, especially those from Africa.
He also criticised a lack of self-responsibility, love and optimism towards positive achievements, while Europe gave an impression of being elderly and haggard.
We believe European society has, in some sense, degenerated towards those receiving welfare, and EU legislation is concentrating on consumer protection. Europe's population now expects enormous help and protection from the state while abandoning personal responsibility and freedom. This is the downside of an oversized welfare state - a ‘nanny state’.
The more functions that the state assumes, the more the sense of responsibility for oneself and others is lost. Caring for the individual becomes obsolete. Without responsibility dignity is also lost.
The welfare state has assumed roles which were traditionally the function of the family. This has undermined the concept of the family and has weakened the perception of the family's importance. Values have been lost too.
Receiving - by being given state hand-outs - without working to achieve them, educates the population to expect and also to become materialistic and egotistic as ideals are lost. Europe’s huge youth unemployment is a vast problem in this context and there is a real danger that this will be perpetuated as the work habit and personal pride in work is forgotten.
The Pope, in his beautiful words, called on Europe to go back to principles of responsibility and love. Implicitly he criticised the excesses of welfare. An excessive welfare state can be considered incompatible with Christian values.
We hope the Pope's message will be heard and accepted by Europe's politicians. But it should make everybody concerned.