Pope John Paul II on Saturday urged Europe to build a future based on the foundation of dignity, freedom and rights that transcend national boundaries.
The pope, making his fourth trip to France and his 40th foreign trip as pope, spoke to the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights on the first day of his four-day visit to Alsace-Lorraine, in eastern France.In an airport arrival statement, the pontiff, speaking in French, said the Roman Catholic Church views "with satisfaction the efforts made by the European countries to tighten still more their bonds and forge a common future."
In the past, the Polish-born pontiff has evoked the vision of a united Europe "from the Atlantic to the Urals," based on a common Christian heritage.
The pope expanded on this theme later Saturday and was expected to do so again when he speaks to the European Parliament on Tuesday.
His message comes at a time of lively debate among the Common Market nations, which have agreed to fully integrate their economies in 1992. The commitment has touched off widespread discussion about whether Western Europe should become a single political unit.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain provoked protests last month when she declared a U.S.-style European union would be "highly damaging" to the individual states.
The pope said the countries of the old continent should remember their common Christian heritage and apply it in policies governing family life, biotechnology, education and employment.
"The most urgent problem on which all nations should cooperate is access to work," he said.
"Is it utopian to ask that when decisions of an economic nature are made, there should be consideration of the trials of those who lose through unemployment a part of their dignity and sometimes even their strength to hope?"
Mrs. Thatcher has called on her fellow leaders to concentrate on lowering commercial barriers and other practical steps, setting aside projects for Europe-wide social progress she described in a recent speech as utopian.
In a wood-paneled room of the Palace of Europe, the 68-year-old pope said that if Europe "wishes to be true to itself, it must gather together all the forces of the continent, respecting the character of each region, but finding its roots in a common spirit."
In the more intimate chamber at the European Court of Human Rights, the pope referred to human rights as "not just a catalogue of positive rights, but a body of underlying values" that are "the expression of the inalienable dignity of the human person."
In the late afternoon, John Paul said Mass at Strasbourg Cathedral. In the evening, the pope spoke in French and German to a rally of 36,000 youngsters at the La Meinau Stadium in a Strasbourg suburb. He spoke of understanding some of the issues facing youth today, including unemployment, sex and education.
The pope's visit was timed for his participation in the 2,000th anniversary of Strasbourg. He also has scheduled visits to the dioceses of Strasbourg, Metz and Nancy, all in the northeast near West Germany.