December 15, 2014

STRASBOURG, FRANCE – The project of European unity and cooperation, and ensuring peace on the continent, requires a commitment to dialogue and respect for others, Pope Francis said.

The pope told council members that a "great toll of suffering and death is still being enacted on this continent."

Visiting in Strasbourg Nov. 25, the pope marked the 65th anniversary of the 47-member Council of Europe. The council was formed to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe after the Second World War.

"In a world more prone to make demands than to serve," he said, helping one another and promoting a peaceful resolution of conflicts must be at the heart of the Council of Europe's agenda.

"The royal road to peace – and to avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two world wars of the last century – is to see others not as enemies to be opposed, but as brothers and sisters to be embraced," the pope said.

Pope Francis pleaded with the European institutions to be more serious and creative about increasing employment, particularly for the young.

The high rate of youth unemployment – averaging 20 per cent across the European Union – is "a veritable mortgage on the future," he said.

"Achieving the good of peace," he said, "first calls for educating to peace, banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalizing those who think or live differently than ourselves."

Pope Francis condemned "religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims."

"This phenomenon," he said, "is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons."

The Council of Europe should sow peace through promoting and protecting human rights, Pope Francis said.

European institutions and the continent's citizens must stop speaking only to those they already agree with, he said. Dialogue with others strengthens one's identity while also making one more sensitive to the gifts and needs of others.