Europe's responsibility to the 'whole person'

Pope Francis has stressed the cura personalis – the care of the ‘whole person’ – in his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In the realms of technology, education, work and politics, he told parliamentarians that they had a responsibility to respect and support individuals. “Upholding the dignity of the person means ... acknowledging the value of human life, which is freely given us and hence cannot be an object of trade or commerce,” he said. He urged Europe to return to its original aims: "a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging peace and fostering peace and fellowship."

Warning that the world sees Europe as "somewhat elderly and haggard", Pope Francis described the continent as a grandmother, no longer vibrant and fertile. "The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions," he said.

In a wide-ranging speech, he said that Europe had a responsibility to migrants, saying that the Mediterranean should not become “a vast cemetery”, and to the environment. He reminded the parliamentarians that human beings are stewards of nature who should show respect for the environment and should sustain it for the entire human family.


Schools and universities, Pope Francis said, should give students more than simply technical expertise, being rather opportunities to unlock their creative potential. In a similar way, work should not be dominated by market forces, but should respect the needs of workers and their families. The family was another theme developed by the Holy Father: he said they fostered hope in the future, and needed to be fruitful and indissoluble.

Developing a theme of his predecessor, Saint John Paul II who was the first Pope to address the European Parliament in 1988, Pope Francis said that Europe’s past, present and future were closely linked with Christianity. He urged its politicians to protect the rights of both its citizens and migrants, protecting and nurturing the continent’s identity with confidence, peace and friendship. “The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed,” he said, “in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman. A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!”

Pope Francis was visiting Strasbourg in a political capacity, as the head of the Vatican state, rather than as the head of the Catholic Church. However he plans a religious visit to France next year. 

The full text of Pope Francis' address to the European Parliament is available on the Vatican Radio website.