Pope Urges Leaders To Close Gap With 'Distant' EU Institutions

  • Pope Francis addresses EU leaders on eve of Rome summit
  • Solidarity is best “antidote” against populism, Pope says

Pope Francis, addressing European Union leaders at the Vatican, urged them to show more solidarity with their citizens as an “antidote” against populism.

Leaders from EU nations excepting the U.K. were received by the Pope on the eve of a summit marking the 60th anniversary of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which led to the foundation of the union. Among those gathered in the Vatican’s frescoed Regal Room, next door to the Sistine Chapel, were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and French President Francois Hollande.

“Sadly, one frequently has the sense that there is a growing split between the citizenry and the European institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the Union,” the Pope said on Friday.

With negotiations due to start soon on how the U.K. should leave the bloc, the EU is buffeted by fears of migrants, terrorism and populists who like French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen want to exit the group too. Italy, one of the six founding members of the European Economic Community, hopes the Rome summit will help chart a new course.

Francis called on his audience to follow the ideals of those who signed the Treaty 60 years ago, focusing on “solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development.” Solidarity gives hope and “is also the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism,” the pope said.

Also in the audience were Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.

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