Awaiting the Pope's visit to Strasbourg next week, an official of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe says she hopes Francis will insist on family issues, as they are crucial to fulfilling Europe's dream of peace. “If you want peace, then defend the family,” Maria Hildingsson, secretary general of federation which works for political representation of family interests from a Catholic perspective, told CNA Nov. 20. Founded in 1997, FAFCE works with both the European Union and the Council of Europe, and is the only independent organization clearly registered in the EU as Catholic; it represents organizations from 15 nations. Pope Francis will travel to Strasbourg Nov. 25, there addressing the local seat of European Parliament and the Council of Europe. The European Parliament includes members of parliament from the 28 states of the European Union, while the Council of Europe is the organization for the defence of human rights in Europe, and has 47 members. Based on her experience of years of advocacy in the two international bodies, Hildingsson has found a split between them. “The split is about issues of human sexuality. The EU is very active in promoting the 'gender’ ideaology agenda, without finding much resistance; while in the Council of Europe the EU states find a lot of resistence on these issue by countries outside the EU, especially the eastern countries which have introduced laws to counter propaganda on homosexuality,” Hildingsson said. She lamented that “the family is almost forgotten among the official issues of the European Union. The Euro 2020 strategy is about work — and we know you cannot raise a family without economic support — but it is not based on a family perspective, it is rather about improving the competiveness of European countries. The family is thus put aside.” Hildingsson explained that in fact “the vast majority of European children live with a father and a mother,” but on the other hand “this sense of economic sense of insecurity puts at risk the capacity to establish stable relationships.” FAFCE has been working to affect public opinion in Europe by organizing conferences, petitions, and campaigns. On the occasion of the European elections, it launched a manifesto in order to identify politicians with family friendly policies, and it also led a campaign to decry the 'Estrela report'. Drafted by the Portuguese member of parliament Edite Estrela, the report put reproductive health on a par with human rights. Though it was non-binding, it could have paved the way to push this agenda on all the countries of European Union. The report did was not approved, with the EU ruling that sexual issues must be discussed at a national level. It is believed that this decision was due in part to the international campaign led by FAFCE involving several citizen and family assocations. This is why Hildingsson stresses it is “important that in his speech Pope Francis insist on subsidiarity, of the respect of the heritage and culture of each country.” And then, she suggested, “the Pope could emphasize that if you want to build peace, you cannot manage it without the family. We must respect the profound anthropological difference of man and woman. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the original French version, speaks about a family composed by one woman and one man.”Will Pope Francis' visit to Europe's parliament bolster family issues?
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