Pope Francis’ Vision for Europe
The pope continues to implore Europe to unify and rediscover its Christian roots. How could the pope’s vision connect with the Bible’s prophecies about Europe?
In a recent letter sent by Pope Francis to the Vatican secretary of state, he expressed his vision for a renewed Europe—one that would lead the world in a spirit of “solidarity, friendship and unity.” His letter was an appeal to European leaders to remember their history and how the European Union started with the Schuman Declaration.
What was the Schuman Declaration?
After World War II, European nations were distrustful of Germany. France wanted Europe’s coal and steel production controlled to prevent Germany from using these resources to rearm and attack France again. Five years after the war, European economies remained stagnant because of a lack of cooperation on coal and steel production (the backbone of any developed nation).
To break the deadlock and kick-start cooperation within Europe, in 1950 French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed a partnership called the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Coal and steel were to be pooled together from six nations (France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) under a supranational authority to ensure they were used only for economic development and not for war production. The plan went into effect in 1952.
The European Coal and Steel Community marked the beginning of a movement toward a united Europe. Robert Schuman hoped it would make war between France and Germany “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible,” and he believed the “coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.”
The premise behind the cooperation was that if nations fused their economic interests together, standards of living would rise, and war would be to no one’s benefit. The ECSC was a success, and membership gradually opened to other countries. Eventually, it led to the European Economic Community (EEC) and today’s European Union (EU).
The pope’s appeal
The pope sees Europe at a crossroads. The member nations will either go forward independently or renew the sense of fraternity and solidarity established by the EU’s founding fathers. Pope Francis was appealing to this history when he urged Europeans to remember that “unity is greater than conflict” and “solidarity can be a way of making history.” He pointed out signs of the union fraying in recent months by nations taking an “every man for himself” attitude during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He sees Europe at a crossroads. The member nations will either go forward independently or renew the sense of fraternity and solidarity established by the EU’s founding fathers.
He called for Europe to “find yourself, be yourself” (quoting Pope John Paul II) and to “rediscover its most deeply rooted ideals,” such as:
- The thirst for truth from the days of ancient Greece.
- The thirst for justice that developed from Roman law.
- The thirst for eternity from the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Will Europe again take on the mantle of the powerful and influential European empires of the past?
The pope and internal divisions
The Catholic Church is facing its own crisis. As the pope sets forth a new vision for Europe and the Catholic Church, traditionalists within the church have vocally criticized the current pope, accusing him of compromising the church’s values in an attempt to build a new world order.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has criticized Pope Francis as being unfaithful to the Catholic doctrines and called for him to resign. He specifically accused the pope of:
- Promoting a world government at the expense of Catholic doctrines.
- Promoting idolatry and “Mother Earth” worship.
- Tolerating sexual abusers within the church.
- Abandoning the conversion of people to Catholicism and instead promoting all faiths.
Pope Francis’ recent comments seemingly endorsing same-sex civil unions has provoked more criticism of his leadership from parts of the Catholic Church. (The Vatican has since countered those claims, saying that the quote was taken out of context.)
A world power on the rise
Some in Europe see COVID-19 as an opportunity to accelerate efforts to transform the EU into an ever-closer union. As the United States continues to experience internal chaos and withdraws as an active player on the world stage, could Europe rise to fill that void as a world power?
The Bible shows that the Roman Empire, which has historically been centered in Europe, will rise to global dominance again. The Bible predicts 10 resurrections of the Roman Empire. Nine have come and gone—one is yet ahead. To learn more, read “The End-Time Ride of the White Horse of Revelation” and “What Is Babylon?”
Our world is in a state of chaos and uncertainty, and there are many factors that could result in a revived and powerful Europe:
- The decline of United States. In recent years, the United States has turned inward and increasingly withdrawn from the world stage. Social unrest, tense political divisions, burgeoning debt and moral decline have all weakened the superpower.
- Russia. In the eastern reaches of Europe, Russia’s continuing desire to dominate former Soviet countries, restore itself as a global superpower and delegitimize Western democracy has caused Western Europe to reconsider its military strength and ability to defend itself.
- Crises around the world. Crises in Africa and the Middle East have caused migrants to stream into Europe looking for a better life. This will continue to force the EU to develop a collective response to deal with this massive influx of people. Other crises like COVID-19, the debt crisis, economic stagnation, the decline in the transatlantic relationship and terrorism are powerful forces pushing Europe to establish a common front to respond. For more insight on this, read “Will the Coronavirus Crisis Bring Change to Europe?”
- Islamic terror. As Europe continues to be threatened by Islamic terrorist attacks, there are greater cries for it to come together to combat the terror threats and defend the European way of life. The Bible shows that in the future, an attack from the Middle East will trigger a military confrontation between Europe and probably a confederation of Muslim countries.
Yet despite these issues, Europe has not yet taken the necessary steps to become a powerful force on the world stage. One reason for this is that Europe is not yet in the form the Bible predicts it will be in the end time.
A very different united Europe
The Bible shows that the form of the final revival of the Roman Empire, pictured as a beast in the book of Revelation, will be different from the current European Union. Here are some ways it will be different:
- The number of members. The current number of nations in the European Union is 27, of which 19 are in the Eurozone. The Bible shows that its final form will be comprised of a confederacy of 10 leaders (Revelation 17:12). These will be rulers over nations, or groups of nations, and will give their sovereignty to a single political leader, known prophetically as “the beast” (verse 13).
Though Europe is predominantly secular at the moment, popes have continually urged Europeans to return to their religious roots.A powerful European-based church will be a dominant force. The book of Revelation shows that a false religious system will ride the beast—a symbol for having influence and connection (Revelation 17:3-5). Though Europe is predominantly secular at the moment, popes have continually urged Europeans to return to their religious roots. Consider the following statements from the current and past popes:
- Pope John Paul II (December 2003) stated that Europe’s Christian roots should be included in the European Constitution and said, “It is important that Europe, enriched throughout the centuries by its Christian faith, confirms its origins and re-establishes its roots.”
- Pope Benedict (July 2005) stated that Europe should return to its deeply Christian roots by reminding Europe of the words of Pope John Paul II: “I, bishop of Rome and pastor of the Universal Church, from Santiago, address to you, old Europe, a cry full of love: Return to yourself! Be yourself! Discover your origins. Revive your roots. Experience again those authentic values that made your history glorious and your presence in other continents beneficial.”
- Pope Francis (January 2017), at the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, urged Europe to “rediscover its proper identity . . . [which] requires recovering its roots in order to shape its future.”
Could the pope’s embrace of modern cultural views (such as his recent statement about civil unions) lead to a Catholicism that modern Europeans find more socially acceptable? Time will tell.
The Europe to come
We may very well be in the calm before the storm when the end-time events play out. The prophet Isaiah warns us to “seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Now is the time to dedicate your life to God. Don’t wait until the world falls apart around you.
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