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Nick Gutteridge
UK Express

EUROPEAN leaders are set to hold an historic meeting with the Pope later this month when they head to Rome to unveil their make-or-break plans to revive the struggling EU.

Brussels chiefs are hoping the Pontiff can provide them with the “leadership” they are lacking to help solve the debilitating crises tearing the bloc apart.

The 28 heads of government will meet with Pope Francis on March 24, the day before they all gather in the Italian capital to celebrate the 60th birthday of the EU and launch its “rebirth”.

One pro-EU think-tank official said that, with Barack Obama gone from the White House, the head of the Catholic Church was the “only moral authority” European politicians had left to follow.

The news that the EU’s most powerful men and women are seeking divine intervention from the Pope may raise eyebrows amongst critics who feel they have no answers to the bloc’s growing problems.

Later today Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is set to unveil an historic white paper laying out five “pathways to unity” for the future of the project in a desperate attempt to turn its fortunes around.

EU sources said the document would be a “birth certificate for the EU at 27” and would mark Brussels’ first major attempts at reform without Britain as a key player.

And now diplomats have told EurActiv that EU leaders will discuss the plans with Pope Francis in Rome ahead of holding their own heated debate on which “pathway” to choose.

The options are expected to range from scaling back Brussels’ duties, whilst not necessarily handing more powers back to member states, right through to the creation of a European superstate.

Earlier this week Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, raised the prospect of consulting the Pope on which path to follow.

He told delegates at a conference in Valetta that the Pontiff could “provide leadership that politicians miss” as the bloc grapples with crises as varied as migration, terrorism, economic instability and Brexit.

He added: “I do think he [Pope Francis] is the ultimate world leader that within the circumstances has the skills and the vision to say things that transcend the obvious and banalities we all say in politics.”

The Pontiff has previously made what have been interpreted by many as pro-EU remarks in speeches, and even addressed MEPs in the parliament in an historic speech in 2014.

Then he called Brussels “somewhat elderly and haggard” and said it needed new energy and impetus if it was to re-engage with votes and increase its flagging popularity.

He said: “The great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.”

More recently, the Pope blasted a lack of unity at the heart of the EU project, and in particular its stance on migration, asking in a speech last year: “What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?”

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