Catholic Pope Affirms Need for Humanism in Europe

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen and Anya Overmann

An incredibly notable public figure uttered these words last week:

“As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a new European humanism made up of ideals and concrete actions. This will mean being unafraid to make practical decisions capable of responding to people’s real problems and of standing the test of time.”

Guess who said this.

Richard Dawkins?

Stephen Fry?

Tim Minchin?

None of the above. Believe it or not, these words were uttered by the Pope.Yes, the Roman-Catholic Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, who lives in the Vatican and is the authority of one the most strict and well-established denomination of Christianity.

The Pope is quoted saying this on March 25th by the Catholic Herald within the context of an event at the Vatican celebrating the 60th anniversary of the signings of the Treaties of Rome. This should come as a surprise to both the religious and irreligious communities alike.

This was a momentous occasion, and so justifying both the lofty speech and large olive branch to the humanist community from the larger Catholic one by its leader. Pope Francis invited 27 European heads of state into the Vatican for this highly significant commemoration.

In a similar manner with the League of Nations — though it failed — providing the conceptual foundations for the United Nations, the Treaties of Rome, very likely, assisted in contributing to the foundation of the European Union.

The Treaties of Rome created both the European Atomic Energy Community and the European Economic Community. It, too, was signed on March 25, but back in 1957. It’s only a little after WWII, so these were important treaties.

This affirmation of a new European humanism is important for two reasons:

  1. It is a commemoration or remembrance and honoring of an important part of the past
  2. It assists in the development of further humanistic motions in the European region

Whether religious or irreligious flavors of humanism, the statements on the 60th commemoration of the Treaties of Rome and the affirmation by the major Abrahamic religion of humanism, with European tangs, is something to feel good about, almost choked up.

This isn’t something to necessarily be dismissed because it’s religious, or because it’s from a religious leader. It is important, and educational, to reflect on the centrality of leaders. The Roman Catholic Pope is one such figure.

If an affirmation of humanistic or positive things, then this is worthy of praise and further echoing of affirmation in and out of the community because this becomes a common cause, a common good, and, in a way, a common voice across conceptual lines and along parallel principles.

Most groups have leaders. And many, many Catholic adherents will listen closely to this message. So this is not an isolated good, but a great one deserving due attention. Besides, outside of groups, it is common principles that are more durable and will ‘stand the test of time.’

Original Publication in Humanist Voices.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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