EU heads of state and government are planning to meet with Pope Francis in Rome on 24 March, ahead of a summit expected to provide a vision for the future of the EU after Brexit, diplomats told euractiv.com.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties, EU leaders will hold a summit in the Italian capital on 25 March with the hope of creating a new positive vision for the Union, which is faced with multiple crises.
But the day before, they will meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican.
Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat mentioned on Monday (27 February) a possible meeting with the Pope, which in his words would “provide leadership that politicians miss” in the context of the historic date of the Rome anniversary.
“I do think he [Pope Francis] is the ultimate world leader that within the circumstances has the skills and the vision to say things that transcend the obvious and banalities we all say in politics,” Muscat said. With a smile, he added “this comes from a Socialist”.
Muscat made the remarks at a think tank forum in Valletta dedicated to the EU’s neighbourhood relations, organised by the Jacques Delors Institute (JDI).
Yves Bertoncini, director of JDI, told EURACTIV that after Barack Obama left office, Pope Francis was the only moral authority to provide guidance to EU leaders.
Diplomats told EURACTIV that the idea of EU leaders meeting Pope Francis was floated some time ago and that it received a positive response.
Pope Francis addressed the European Parliament in November 2014 urging Europe to create jobs and not allow the bureaucracy of its institutions to suffocate the ideals that once made it vibrant.
Francis told MEPs Europe needed new impetus and energy, saying it often seemed “somewhat elderly and haggard”, comparing it to a grandmother who is no longer fertile and full of life.
“As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions,” he said.
He also told Europe’s leaders to do more to help thousands of migrants risking their lives trying to get into the continent, saying they had to stop the Mediterranean becoming “a vast cemetery”.
Pope Francis is reportedly studying the possibility of a visit to South Sudan, where according to the EU, 100,000 people now face starvation, although other aid agencies, such as Save the Children, put the figure even higher.
He has helped restore full diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, visited Israel and received Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican, visited Armenia and Azerbaijan, two countries in the EU neighbourhood technically at war with each other.
Pope Francis was awarded the Charlemagne Prize on 6 May 2016. The prize is awarded to people who are seen to have furthered the cause of European unification.