Pope Francis awarded prestigious German European unity prize

Pope Francis awarded prestigious German European unity prize

BERLIN - The Associated Press
Pope Francis awarded prestigious German European unity prize

This file photo taken on November 25, 2014 shows Pope Francis before delivering a speech at the European Parliament, during a short visit at the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, eastern France. AFP Photo

Pope Francis has been named the winner of the International Charlemagne Prize, awarded annually by the German city of Aachen for contributions to European unity.

The prize committee said Dec. 23 that the pontiff had sent “a message of hope and encouragement” at a time in which “many citizens in Europe are seeking orientation,” news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) reported.

The prize is usually awarded in Aachen but the 2016 prize will be handed over in Rome. There was no immediate word on the date.

Previous winners include former U.S. President Bill Clinton and St. John Paul II, who received a special edition of the prize in 2004.

The Holy Roman emperor Charlemagne once ruled a large swath of Western Europe from Aachen, near the Belgian border.

Pope Francis was among the candidates of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for his assistance in the United States-Cuban thaw, which he lost against the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. Other candidates for the Nobel Prize included German Chancellor Angela Merkel for admitting large numbers of refugees and migrants to Germany in the European migrant crisis, and U.S. and Iranian foreign ministers John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif, respectively, for the Iran nuclear deal.