View From Rome
View from Rome12 May 2016 | by Christopher Lamb
He was called from the ends of the earth to shake up the Church but now it is European leaders who are turning to the Latin American Pope for guidance.
In the Vatican on Friday last week, Francis was given the Charlemagne Prize for his work towards European unity – slightly ironic given that he has been highly critical of the Old Continent and has yet to visit Germany, Spain or France (apart from a day trip to the European Parliament in Strasbourg).
The Pope has not held back on his low opinion of Europe and likened it twice to a grandmother or “barren woman” who has become weary and haggard. He is also particularly frustrated by what he sees as the feeble responses of political leaders to the continent’s migrant crisis. Yet Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and de facto leader of the European Union, is a big fan of Francis: last Friday she had her third private audience with him and has told Vatican officials she is convinced that the Church has a unique role to play on the world stage. Before seeing Mrs Merkel the Pope also received EU leaders Martin Schulz, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk who praised him for his bold stance on migrants and message of peace.
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