Nov 24, 2014 12:00 PM

Pope to take on hot EU topics in Strasbourg visit

The Associated Press

STRASBOURG, France (AP) Pope Francis will deliver his first public speech about Europe on Tuesday, likely to focus on complex continental issues such as high jobless rates among the young, and immigration.

The pontiff's whirlwind, four-hour visit to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Europe's main human rights body, in Strasbourg is shaping up as more of a secular stop than a liturgical layover.

Aides say Francis will address topics including unemployment and immigration two hot-button issues in Europe. His address is also likely to revive themes that he evoked during a private meeting with a group of European bishops last month.

Straying from his prepared remarks at that time, the pope said that Europe was "wounded," alluding to soaring jobless rates especially among the young in places like Spain and Italy, according to a transcript of the speech reported by noted Vatican commentator Sandro Magister on Monday.

"It has gone from the time of prosperity, of great well-being, to a worrying crisis in which young people too are discarded," Francis reportedly said.

Francis' trip has disgruntled some. Some local religious leaders regret that he won't visit Strasbourg's famed cathedral. Some left-leaning lawmakers argue he has no place visiting secular European institutions. The activist group Femen staged a brief demonstration at the cathedral on Monday, with one woman draping herself in the European flag at the altar.

French Catholic leaders were planning to broadcast the pope's remarks to the European bodies on a big screen in the cathedral on Tuesday.

Francis' trip is the first by a pope to Strasbourg since John Paul II visited in 1988. That was a very different Europe before the Berlin Wall came down.


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