Regarding the issue of religious freedom: as I said previously, Mogherini has emphasized her interest in the matter. We will have to see what she manages to do. As to the events related to the violence carried out by the Islamic State, the European Union can make an effort at the diplomatic level to effect a minimal coordination between the decisions of national registries. However, to date, they remain the nerve centers that decide the issue.
Should Pope Francis’ visit to the European Parliament be viewed as the visit of a religious leader or of a head of state?
One could formally sustain the latter view, but I think the invitation was extended to him primarily as a religious leader. Martin Schulz was always keen on the institutions of the European Union engaging in dialogue with religions, much more so than Barroso when he was President of the European Commission. As Cardinal Marx, President of COMECE, pointed out, the Pope’s visit is particularly significant because it is taking place before an official visit to one of the Member States.
The positions of the Church on important issues such as life, the economy, family, etc. are decidedly different than those increasingly held by the EU. What is the relationship between the EU and the Church? What impact can the Pope’s visit have, from a point of view of guidance on these issues?
I would say that there has not always been an explicit conflict between the positions of the European Union as such, and those of the Church. Increasingly, the positions of the EU institutions simply reflect modernity (or post-modernity). The Church — through the COMECE — carries out her legitimate work in Brussels through dialogue on all the issues, by expressing her point of view. Pope Francis’s visit could certainly have an effect by reviving the debate, especially on issues related to society and the economy. His speech could also definitely touch upon broader issues related to the increasing secularization of Europe.