ROME – In late May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe can no longer completely rely on its long-standing British and U.S. allies, urging the European Union to be prepared to “take its fate into its own hands.”
Speaking to Crux during a major Vatican conference, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, one of Pope Francis’s closest advisers as a member of his “C-9” council of cardinals from around the world, said he agrees.
“When we look to the United States, to China, to other continents, Europe has to find its own role, not only look towards the United States, think that they will help us, they will do something,” Marx told Crux on Friday.
“We have to be clear in our positions,” he said.
“And I think it’s right a little bit, what Ms. Merkel said, it’s the time for Europe,” Marx said. “When we will fight on the global scene for human rights, for a global community of humanity, like the pope says, the one house of creation.”
Marx spoke with Crux during a break in the “Dialogue (Re) Thinking Europe” conference, taking place in the Vatican Oct. 27-29. Hosted by the Vatican, it’s organized by the COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. The cardinal is the head of the COMECE.
Participants include top Vatican officials and leaders of the European Union. Pope Francis will address the group on Saturday afternoon Rome time.
“I think it’s the spirit of Europe to be a contribution for a better world, not only for Europe but for the rest of the family of human beings,” Marx said.
The cardinal was responding to a question regarding comments Merkel made in late May, after a Nato summit and a meeting of the G7. Though she didn’t mention either by name, her comments were taken to be a direct reference to a post-Brexit U.K. and a U.S. governed by President Donald Trump.
The two-day G7 summit held in Taormina, Italy saw the U.S. president on opposite sides from the rest of the leaders coming from Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Japan on several issues, including climate change and trade.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over,” she said at the time, addressing an election rally in Munich. “I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
The chancellor also said that Germany and Europe would naturally strive to remain on good terms with the U.S., Britain and other countries, “even with Russia,” but added: “We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”
Both Marx and Merkel are considered to be close allies of Pope Francis, who has the cardinal in his own C9, the council of cardinal advisors who are helping him re-shape the Roman curia, meaning the Church’s governing body.
Merkel, on the other hand, was welcomed by the Argentine pontiff in June 2017 (two weeks after he welcomed Trump), May 2016, February 2015 and May 2013.
After their last encounter, the German chancellor told the press that she and Francis had talked about Africa during their 40-minute encounter, especially the role of the European Union in trying to promote economic development. She said the two leaders had also discussed the importance of “tearing down walls,” protecting the environment, and promoting a multilateral approach to solving global problems.
Speaking about the conference being held at the Vatican, Marx also underlined that the European unification movement, which came after the two world wars were fought on the continent, was “one of the young people,” who didn’t want any other wars between European nations.
For this reason, he said, it’s necessary to reach out to younger generations today, show them the importance of continental unity. One of the suggestions he made, which was also suggested by one of the panelists on Friday, was to further spread the Erasmus program, which allows European students to do a semester in another country within the union.
During his opening remarks, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, also spoke about the importance of Europe’s unity.
“The outcome of the British referendum last year, and the tendency to fragmentation sweeping the continent, have led the Holy Father to consider the urgent need to promote a more wide-ranging and focused reflection on Europe as a whole and on its future direction, even beyond the confines of the European Union,” Parolin said.
The prelate also said that the Holy See regards the project of European integration with interest and respect which is the reason why it decided to participate in the dialogue taking place between ecclesial and civil society leaders. “The Holy See is not indifferent to the continent’s problems and future, and is always willing to offer its own contribution for the good of Europe’s peoples.”
The European project, Parolin acknowledged, is a human work and as such, “it has its limitations” and room for improvement.
“As Christians, we want to make our contribution inspired and sustained by our faith. Driven by the desire to seek the city of God, we do not want to forget the importance of building and strengthening the community of man,” he said.