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Pope Francis wins German prize for fostering European values


Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis will accept next year’s Charlemagne prize, a prominent annual German award for promoting European values, organisers said Wednesday.

The Argentine pontiff will receive the medal at a ceremony in Rome on a date still to be determined, the selection committee said in a statement.

It hailed the pope’s moral leadership during Europe’s biggest refugee influx since World War II and his appeal for urgent economic and social change in the EU.

“At a time in which many citizens of Europe are looking for orientation, Pope Francis sends a message of hope and encouragement,” it said.

The pope stands for “peace and understanding, for mercy, tolerance, solidarity and the conservation of creation”, the committee added.

It highlighted in particular his “historic” address to the European Parliament in November 2014 in which he launched a withering attack on a “haggard” Europe, urging it to reclaim global leadership after years of crisis and to take in migrants before the Mediterranean became a “vast cemetery”.

The organisers said the speech called on lawmakers to place “the dignity of human beings and the ideals of Europe’s founding fathers at the heart of their work”.

A Vatican spokesman told AFP that the pontiff, who does not usually accept accolades, would claim the Charlemagne prize but offered no further comment.

Previous winners of the prize — awarded yearly since 1950 by the western city of Aachen — include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former French president Francois Mitterrand and former Czech president Vaclav Havel.

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