Pope Francis compared Europe to a barren grandmother, calling it “elderly and haggard” during an address to the European parliament.
The Argentine pontiff, 77, made the remarks during a visit to Strasbourg, the first address to the parliament by the head of the Catholic church since John Paul II spoke there 26 years ago.
Pope Francis told European lawmakers he wanted to convey a message of “hope and encouragement” to a continent brought low by sluggish growth and high unemployment.
Yet, he was particularly vivid in depicting its sense of decline, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
“We encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe that is now a grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant,” he said.
“The great ideals which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.”
The Pope urged the lawmakers, who were elected in May, to build Europe “not around the economy but around the sacred nature of the human person”.
He stressed immigration and called on Europe to do more to prevent the watery deaths of thousands of migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
“We cannot allow the Mediterranean Sea to become a vast cemetery.” he said.
The EU has struggled to cope with a rising tide of illegal immigration, with member states bickering about who should bear the cost and burden of rescue missions and resettling migrants.
The EU’s border patrol agency, known as Frontex, recently launched a new operation called Triton to help monitor the seas off the coast of southern Italy.
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