Christians are "called to promote political dialogue, especially where it is threatened and where conflict seems to prevail", Pope Francis told a Christian conference looking at the future of Europe late last week.

Addressing delegates at the (Re)Thinking Europe: a Christian Contribution to the Future of the European Project, the Pope said that Christians are "called to restore dignity to politics and to view politics as a lofty service to the common good, not a platform for power", noting that, sadly, "all too often we see how politics is becoming instead a forum for clashes between opposing forces".

"Extremist and populist groups are finding fertile ground in many countries; they make protest the heart of their political message, without offering the alternative of a constructive political project."

Earlier the Pope said that perhaps the "greatest contribution that Christians can make to today’s Europe is to remind her that she is not a mass of statistics or institutions, but is made up of people".

"Sadly, we see how frequently issues get reduced to discussions about numbers," he said. "There are no citizens, only votes. There are no migrants, only quotas. There are no workers, only economic markers. There are no poor, only thresholds of poverty. The concrete reality of the human person is thus reduced to an abstract – and thus more comfortable and reassuring – principle.  The reason for this is clear: people have faces; they force us to assume a responsibility that is real, personal and effective. Statistics, however useful and important, are about arguments; they are soulless. They offer an alibi for not getting involved, because they never touch us in the flesh."

Pope Francis added that that Christians can also help "recover the sense of belonging to a community".

"It is not by chance that the founders of the European project chose that very word to identify the new political subject coming into being. Community is the greatest antidote to the forms of individualism typical of our times, to that widespread tendency in the West to see oneself and one’s life in isolation from others."

The Pope said the commitment of Christians in Europe must "represent a promise of peace", noting that being peace-makers means "promoting a culture of peace".

"Now is not the time, then, to dig trenches, but instead to work courageously to realise the founding fathers’ dream of a united and harmonious Europe, a community of peoples desirous of sharing a future of development and peace."

The conference was sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).