.- A source close to the governing body of the European Union has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI was extended an invitation to address a plenary session of the Parliament. A staffer in the EU Assembly President, Hans-Gert Poettering’s office confirmed for Parliament.com that the President invited Pope Benedict during his March 23rd audience with the Holy Father.
A source in Poettering’s office yesterday said they were still awaiting a response but were “hopeful” it would be accepted.
Poettering, who has been President of the EU Parliament since January of this year, has been a German representative to the body since its founding in 1979. The statesman is a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the lone Western European leaders who are calling for the Christian foundations of Europe to be more readily acknowledged – an issue about which the Holy Father has continuously spoken.
The Parliament leader’s aide said Poettering had raised the possibility of a Papal visit with each of parliament's political group leaders before his visit to Rome last month.
The idea would be for the Pope to address a plenary session, possibly in Strasbourg, on dialogue between religions and cultures, including the role religions can play in dialogue based on truth and tolerance, according to Parliament.com
“It would be wonderful if the offer is accepted, particularly as it is so long since a Pope visited parliament,” she said.
The last time parliament played host to a pontiff was in October 1988 when John Paul II spoke at a plenary session in Strasbourg.
“Poettering invited the Pope because he believes an exchange of views with such an important spiritual leader could be very, very useful,” said the source.