Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for Europe to stick together and revive the ideals of its founders on Sunday (2 June), saying ideologies and fear-mongering politicians were threatening its very existence as a bloc.
His comments to journalists on the plane while returning from a three-day trip to Romania, one of the more recent European Union members, were his first since European elections last month.
Francis, who was asked about the elections, Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini and other European topics, urged believers to pray for European unity and non-believers to hope for it “from the bottom of your hearts”.
Earlier on Sunday Pope Francis asked forgiveness in the name of the Catholic Church for the mistreatment of the Roma people, a move likely to increase tensions with Italy’s anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Francis made the comment during a meeting with Roma people at the last event of his three day trip to Romania, saying his heart was made “heavy” by the meeting.