Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pope to be invited to address European Parliament

At an Oct. 11 audience with the Pope, European Parliament president Martin Schulz is expected to formally invite Pope Francis to address the legislative body of the European Union.
The news of Schulz’ visit is still not official, but it has been confirmed by a European Union source who spoke to CNA Sept. 24 under condition of anonymity.

The source maintained that Schulz' audience is already scheduled, though “due to unforeseen circumstances these kind of things can change quite late,” and this is probably a reason why the audience has not yet been made official.

Schulz had already extended an informal verbal invitation to the Pope to visit the European Parliament at his inaugural Mass as Bishop of Rome on March 19.

Both of Schulz' predecessors – Hans-Gert Pöttering of Germany and Jerzy Buzek of Poland – invited Benedict XVI to address the European Parliament, but he never took up the invitation. 

The only previous occasion when a Pope addressed the institution was Blessed John Paul II in 1988.

Although Schulz received an education at an institution of the Holy Ghost Fathers, the 57-year-old European leader claims to be a non-believer and has thus far not attended European Union meetings with religious leaders. 

Such meetings have been attended faithfully by both José Manuel Durao Barroso, president of the European Commission, and Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council.

According to the anonymous source, the program of the audience has Schulz visiting a Sant’Egidio project shortly after his meeting with the Pope.

In the early afternoon, Schulz is also due to participate in a public debate on poverty and humanitarian issues at the Gregorian University.

The press office of Gregorian University told CNA Sept. 24 that “the conference has not yet been confirmed,” but did not deny that they have been approached.

The debate is understood to have been organized by Caritas International, with Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and president of the organization, to be on the podium alongside Schulz.