STRASBOURG, France (RNS) — Pope Francis on Nov. 25 urged European leaders to reject a “throwaway culture” that treats people like “cogs in a machine” too easily discarded through abortion and euthanasia.
In a highly critical address amid tight security, the pope called for stronger leadership at the headquarters of the European Parliament.
Francis blamed “selfish lifestyles” and “uncontrolled consumerism” for promoting alienation and indifference to the poor during a time of economic crisis.
“Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited,” Francis warned.
“Whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.
“Upholding the dignity of the person means instead acknowledging the value of human life, which is freely given us and hence cannot be an object of trade or commerce.”
The 77-year-old pontiff is well-known for his attacks on consumerism and for his compassion for the poor. More recently, Francis has turned his attention to bioethics issues, describing abortion, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia as “playing with life” and “a sin against God.”
But this was the first time he has delivered his message on the floor of the parliament of the European Union, which represents 500 million people across 28 countries.
As the first non-European pope to hold the office in almost 1,300 years, Francis also appeared less willing to continue the Roman Catholic Church’s traditionally unconditional support for the EU.
As the impact of the stifling economic crisis is being felt in European countries like France and Italy, Francis attacked the EU for a dearth of leadership, saying its ideals had become weighed down by bureaucracy.
“The great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost their power of attraction, in favour of the bureaucratic, technical emphasis of its institutions,” the pope said.
Despite the expansion of the EU, he said Europe seemed “somewhat elderly and haggard” and felt “less and less a protagonist” in the world.
He also called for a united response to the thousands of migrants who were fleeing Syria, Iraq and North Africa and arriving in Europe.
“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!” the pope said.
Tuesday’s four-hour trip was the shortest papal visit abroad, and only Francis’ second European trip since his election, after going to Albania in September.