James Corkery SJ
Europe: What is Pope Benedict Thinking?
It may seem strange, as Ireland prepares for its second vote on the Lisbon Treaty on October 2, 2009, to focus on the vision of Europe of the current pope. After all, are his views not essentially religious and are Ireland’s concerns with Lisbon not, in the main, economic, social and political? At first glance, this may appear to be the case, but on closer inspection it becomes evident that Irish people are concerned about a very wide range of issues with which the Treaty of Lisbon is, or is perceived to be, connected. And the pope is concerned, as he observes the growth and development of the European Union, with the principles and the vision of humanity that underlie the advance of the EU and with how these are related to the religious and cultural heritage of the continent of Europe as a whole. Popes, and not only the present one, have a pastoral interest in Europe – and thus in the values, freedoms, opportunities, possibilities and challenges that it presents to its peoples. Indeed, before homing in on Benedict XVI’s vision of Europe, it will be instructive to glance back at the approach to Europe taken by his predecessor, John Paul II, who dominated the papal scene for over a quarter of a century, from 1978 to 2005.