In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa-Vatican Insider, Pope Francis says that Europe needs to respect identities of peoples without closing itself in. Europe must be saved because it is a heritage that “cannot and must not be dissolved”.
Dialogue and listening, “starting from one’s own identity” and from human and Christian values, are the antidote against “sovereignism” and populism, and are also the engine for “a process of relaunching” that never ends.
Europe and its founding fathers
The Pope hopes that Europe will continue to be the dream of its founding fathers. It is a vision that became a reality by implementing the historical, cultural and geographical unity that characterizes the continent.
Despite Europe’s “problems of administration and internal disagreements”, the Pope is optimistic about the appointment of Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission. He is happy about her appointment “because a woman can be the right person to revive the strength of the founding fathers.” “Women”, he said, “know how to bring people together and unite.”
Europe’s human and Christian roots
According to the Pope, the main challenge for Europe in relaunching itself comes from dialogue. “In the European Union we must talk to each other, confront each other, know each other”, says the Pope, explaining how the “mental mechanism” behind every reasoning must be “first Europe, then each of us”.
To do this, he says, “we also need to listen”, while very often we only see “compromise monologues”. The starting and relaunching point, he explains, are the human values of the person. It is a fact of history that Europe has both human and Christian roots. “And when I say this,” the Pope says, “I don’t separate Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. The Orthodox have a very precious role for Europe. We all have the same founding values.”
Identity that is open to dialogue
The Pope explains that each of us is important, no one is secondary. Hence in every dialogue, “we must start from our own identity”. He gives an example: “I can’t do ecumenism if I don’t start from my being Catholic, and the other who does ecumenism with me must do so as a Protestant, Orthodox etc… Our own identity is not negotiable; it integrates itself.”
The Pope said that the problem with exaggerations is that we isolate ourselves without opening up. Identity, he says, is cultural, national, historical and artistic wealth, and each country has its own, but it must be integrated with dialogue. It is crucial that while starting from one’s own identity, one needs to open up to dialogue in order to receive something greater from the identity of others.
“Sovereignism” and populism
The Pope expresses concern about what he terms as “sovereignism” which he describes as an attitude of isolation. He says he is worried about speeches resembling those of Hitler in 1934 that speak of “Us first. We… we…”
While “sovereignism” involves closing in upon oneself, sovereignty is not, the Pope explains. Sovereignty must be defended and relations with other countries, with the European Community, must also be protected and promoted.
“Sovereignism” is an exaggeration that always ends badly: “it leads to wars”, the Pope says. Populism, he explains, is a way of imposing an attitude that leads to “sovereignism” and should not be confused with “popularism”, which is the culture of the people which needs to be expressed. Suffixing “-ism” to “sovereign”, the Pope says, is bad.