Photo: TIZIANA FABI / AFP via The Daily Star


Returning from a pastoral visit to Armenia on Sunday night Pope Francis fielded questions from journalists, including one from Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register about the result of Britain’s EU referendum. Pope Francis’s response to the Brexit question, as translated by the Catholic News Agency (and slightly edited by us – see square brackets), follows:

There is already a war in Europe. Moreover, there is a climate of division, not only in Europe, but in its own countries. If you remember Catalonia, [and] last year Scotland. These divisions… I don’t say that they are dangerous, but we must study them well, and before taking a step forward for a division, to speak well amongst ourselves, and seek out viable solutions …

I honestly don’t know. I have not studied the reasons why the United Kingdom wanted to make this decision, but there are divisions. I believe I said this once, I don’t know where, but I said it, that independence will make for emancipation. For instance, all our Latin American countries, even the countries of Africa, have emancipated from the crown, from Madrid. Even in Africa from Paris, London, Amsterdam …

And this is an emancipation, and is more understandable because behind it there is a culture, there is a way of thinking … rather [than] the secession of a country. I’m still not speaking of Brexit; we think of Scotland, all these … It is a thing that has been given a name, and this I say without offending, it is a word which politicians use: Balkanization, without speaking ill of the Balkans. It is somewhat of a secession, it is not emancipation. And behind (it) there are histories, cultures, misunderstandings, even good will … this is clear.

For me, unity is always better than conflict, but there are different ways of unity … and even fraternity — and here [we] come [to] the European Union — fraternity is better than animosity and distance; fraternity is better, and bridges are better than walls. One must reflect on all of this. It is true: a country [can say] “I am in Europe, but … I want to have certain things that are mine, from my culture.”

And the step that [is needed] — and here I come to the Charlemagne Prize, which is given by the European Union to discover the strength that it had from its roots — it is a step of creativity, and also of “healthy disunity,” to give more independence, more liberty to countries of the Union, to think of another form of Union, to be creative. And [to be] creative in places of work, in the economy. There is a liquid economy in Europe. For instance, in Italy 40% of young people aged 25 and younger do not have work.

There is something that is not good in this massive Union, but we do not throw the baby in the bath water out the window, no? We look to redeem the things and recreate, because recreation of human things, also our personality, is a journey, which one must always take. A teenager is not like an adult, or an elderly person. It is the same and it is not the same. One recreates continuously. It is this that gives life, the desire to live, and gives fruitfulness.

And this I underline: today, the word, the two key words for the European Union, are creativity and fruitfulness. This is the challenge. I don’t know, it’s what I think.