Pope: Europe Is 'Elderly and Haggard'
Francis warns EU that it risks 'losing its own soul'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2014 4:37 PM CST
Pope Francis talks to journalists during a press conference he held aboard the papal flight on his way back from Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014.    (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

(Newser) – Pope Francis has been rather nice to gays and atheists, but Europe, look out. The Wall Street Journal reports that the pope took Europe to task today during a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, calling the continent "elderly and haggard" and "no longer fertile and vibrant"—not to mention "fearful and self-absorbed," "a grandmother," and "slowly losing its own soul," per the New York Times and BBC. He focused on Europe's struggles with immigration and youth unemployment. Among the highlights:

  • "We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery," he says of immigrants who have died trying to reach European shores—including over 3,000 who didn't survive journeys to Italy in old boats.
  • "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 says. Yet he also warned of capitalism, saying that "men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited."
  • His solution for rampant youth unemployment: "The time has come to promote policies that create employment" by “joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security" for employees.

The visit was only Francis' second inside of Europe (the Muslim-majority nation of Albania was first) and marked his shortest trip abroad at barely four hours. Strasbourg residents were able to see his talk on a big screen in the city's cathedral, but not all were thrilled with the arrangement: "He knows what he is doing but we would have liked him to be here," says a worshipper.
 

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