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Pope to EU Parliament: ‘The unborn and terminally ill are treated as objects in Europe’

Pope Francis at the European Parliament (PA)

Despite talk of human rights, too many people, including the unborn, terminally ill, and the elderly, are treated as objects in Europe, Pope Francis has said.

The Pope made the comments during a strongly worded address to MEPs at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. Later he will give another speech to the Council of Europe.

The Pope continued: “Despite talk of human rights, too many people are treated as objects in Europe: unborn, terminally ill, and the elderly. We’re too tempted to throwaway lives we don’t see as ‘useful’. Upholding the dignity of the person means acknowledging the value of the gift of human life.”

He said that “killing [children]… before they’re born is the great mistake that happens when technology is allowed to take over” and is “the inevitable consequence of a throwaway culture”.

If we uphold the dignity of the person we are acknowledging the “value of human life” which cannot be an object of trade or commerce, he said. “We’re too tempted to throw away lives we don’t see as ‘useful’. Upholding the dignity of the person means acknowledging the value of the gift of human life.”

Discussing, the issue of migrants who endanger their lives to move to Europe, the Pope said Europe needed a united response to the question of migration and that the EU cannot “allow the Mediterranean to become a vast graveyard.”

The boats landing daily on Europe’s shores are filled with men and women who need “acceptance and assistance”, he said.

The 77-year-old grandson of European immigrants to Argentina, Pope Francis urged the European Parliament to value the continent’s faiths and recuperate a sense of responsibility for the common good to rejuvenate Europe’s social, political and economic life.

“In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother,’ no longer fertile and vibrant,” he said. In too many cases, he said, the Judeo-Christian values and the humanist ideals that inspired the continental drive toward unity seem to have been replaced by “the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.”

On the threat of terrorism and the persecution of Christians around the world, Francis said he was convinced that a Europe capable of appreciating its religious roots will be “all the more able to resist extremism” which due to “a vacuum of ideals we are currently seeing in the West”.

“Mans’ forgetfulness of God gives rise to violence,” he added. “I cannot fail to forget the injustices and persecution particularly Christians in various parts of the world.”

The Pope also said that although the motto of EU is “is ‘United in Diversity’… unity does not mean uniformity” of economcis, culture, ways of thinking.”

The Pope ended his speech by discussing the historic link between Europe and Christianity.

He said: “An anonymous second-century author wrote that ‘Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body’. The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory. A two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity. It is a history not free of conflicts and errors, but one constantly driven by the desire to work for the good of all.

“We see this in the beauty of our cities, and even more in the beauty of the many works of charity and constructive cooperation throughout this continent. This history, in large part, must still be written. It is our present and our future. It is our identity. Europe urgently needs to recover its true features in order to grow, as its founders intended, in peace and harmony, since it is not yet free of conflicts.”

Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, invited the Pope to address the parliament during an audience with the Pope in Rome last year.

Francis is the first pontiff to address the European Parliament since St John Paul II in 1988. Mr Schulz welcomed the Pope as he arrived at the main entrance of the parliament this morning.

After a welcoming ceremony, Mr Schulz introduced the Pope to the members of the Bureau and Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, before he delivered his first speech of the day.

He later visited the Council of Europe, addressing the organisation as it celebrates its 65th anniversary.

Speaking before the papal visit, Mr Schulz said: “We are very honoured and proud to receive Pope Francis in the European Parliament. Through his speech to the European Parliament he will have the opportunity to address the millions of citizens represented by our Members.

“I look forward to his opinion on shared concerns such as the economic crisis, the fight against poverty, immigration policy and several other matters where a solution needs a stronger and more dynamic European Union.”