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Pope Francis receives EU Charlemagne Prize

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Pope Francis receives EU Charlemagne Prize

Pope Francis - Photo © European Union 2016 - Source EP

(VATICAN) - Pope Francis was awarded the prestigious 2016 Charlemagne Prize at a ceremony held at the Vatican Friday, at which the presidents of the three EU institutions delivered a joint eulogy.

The Catholic Pontiff was awarded the Charlemagne Prize for "his efforts to promote the European values of peace, tolerance, compassion and solidarity".

The International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen is awarded for work done in the service of European unification. The prize is named after Charlemagne, the King of the Franks, who was revered by his contemporaries as the "Father of Europe". The laureate of the award for 2015 was European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

The original announcement was made on December 23 in Aachen, Germany, by the prize's executive committee. Citing his address to the European Parliament in 2014, the prize committee commended the pope's message of "peace and understanding" as well as "compassion, tolerance, solidarity and the integrity of creation throughout his pontificate." "In these times, in which many citizens in Europe seek orientation, His Holiness Pope Francis sends a message of love and encouragement," it said in a statement.

In his part of the speech, President Juncker underlined that Pope Francis personifies the idea that solidarity and compassion are not just fine-sounding words but values that require us to take a stand and act. He warned that peace cannot be taken for granted and called on all Europeans to face up to their difficulties in order to overcome them, and to shape history rather than be swept along by it.

The award ceremony was preceded by a Pontifical Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and by a private audience of the three Presidents with the Pope. It was followed by a joint press conference of President Juncker, President Schulz and Marcel Philipp, Lord Mayor of the German city of Aachen, home to the Charlemagne Prize.

On the eve of the event, the three Presidents participated, alongside Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, in a debate on the State of the Union, which took place in the Horatii and Curiatii Room in the Capitolini Museum – the same room in which the Treaty of Rome was signed on 25 March 1957.

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