European unity prize awarded to Pope
Pope John Paul is being honoured for his contribution to European unity with a special edition of the International Charlemagne Prize.
The 83-year-old pontiff follows Sir Winston Churchill, former President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair in winning the prize, awarded annually since 1950 by the German city of Aachen.
The award committee cited ìthe extraordinary contribution of the pope to the process of European integration, but also his particular effort to exert an influence from Europe on the shaping of the world order.î
Aachen mayor Juergen Linden highlighted the Polish-born popeís role in bringing down the Iron Curtain that once divided the continent.
ìCommunism would have been overcome without the pope, but he helped to ensure that it happened faster and without bloodshed,î Linden said.
The presentation ceremony is to be held in the Vatican in March.
This yearís regular Charlemagne prize is being awarded to European Parliament president Pat Cox, who will receive his award in Aachen in May.
The Roman emperor Charlemagne once ruled a large swath of western Europe from Aachen, close to the Belgian border.