This Friday, Pope Francis will be awarded the Charlemagne Prize. High-ranking politicians such as German Chancellor Merkel and EU Parliament President Martin Schulz have also traveled to Rome for the ceremony – because the Pope has something to say.
Interviewer: Today in Rome, the Charlemagne Prize will be awarded to Pope Francis. Do you already notice something of the excitement or is Rome used to this hustle and bustle??
Father Bernd Hagenkord (head of the German-language editorial department of Radio Vatican): On the one hand, the city is used to hustle and bustle, on the other hand, the Charlemagne Prize is not widely known outside of Germany. Italy has therefore rather looked to yesterday, when Chancellor Merkel met with Italian Prime Minister Renzi. This is more the event reported in the newspapers. There will certainly also be reports about the Pope and the Charlemagne Prize award ceremony today and what he will have to say. But all Italy has been looking at Merkel and Renzi.
Interviewer: Normally the pope doesn't accept prizes, because he doesn't see himself as a head of state who is judged for his achievements. Why is it different with the Charlemagne Prize?
Hagenkord: You can spin this even further. The pope has not accepted titles such as honorary doctorates before as archbishop. This time he makes an exception. That means he must have something to say to Europe, or that he wants to take the opportunity to say something to Europe. We will have to wait and see in which way he will express himself. But this is obviously so important to him that he wants to use this opportunity to draw attention to European unification, the peace process and to the current problems. It is also a topic that the others have their say and not only those who like to build borders, but those who say that building borders in Europe makes no sense. Pope Francis is clearly one of those people. He has said this several times. This is what he wants to draw attention to and this is how he makes the prize an important European event.
Interviewer: Before the award ceremony, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is still for a private audience with Pope Francis. The two of them seem to get along quite well, or? After all, it is already the fourth time that she is with him.
Hagenkord: This is what I hear again and again, that the two get along quite well with each other, that they can discuss well with each other and that they have topics that they can and want to discuss. The pope is not a party politician, after all.
The interview was conducted by Verena Troster.