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Archbishop Gallagher’s Address to Rimini Meeting of ‘Communion and Liberation’

Meeting on the theme: Europe: Rights and Duties (1979-2019)

 Here is a translation of the address of Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, gave August 21, 2019, at the 40th Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, being held at Rimini from August 18-24, 2019, in the course of the Meeting on the theme: Europe: Rights and Duties (1979-2019).

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Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher’s Address

 Mister Minister,

Mister Secretary of State, The Honourable Nicola Renzi,

President Letta,

Professor Vittadini,

Dear Friends,

These are my first moments at a Rimini Meeting of “Communion and Liberation” and I must say I’m very moved by the great public taking part in this meeting. The topic proposed certainly obliges one in some way to re-focus the debate on Europe, often unbalanced in favor of personal and social rights in regard to the concept itself of duty, perceived at times in a hostile way by the modern mentality. In fact, Pope Francis highlighted it to the European Parliament: “it seems that to the concept of right itself is no longer associated the equally essential and complementary concept of duty, so that one ends up affirming the rights of the individual without taking into account that every human being  is linked to a social context, in which his rights and duties are connected with those of others and of the common good of the society itself.”[1]

In hindsight, if we observe the history of the European project, which issued from the second world conflict, we notice that it is born principally as a “community of duties.” Alcide De Gasperi made this understood clearly,  — of whom in fact two days ago we remembered the 65th anniversary of his death –, in a talk given at Brussels in 1948.[2] De Gasperi noted that to “save freedom it’s necessary to save peace” and that “for the very reasons of its existence, all democratic action should point to peace.” Therefore, he continued, it’s necessary to constitute a “solidarity of reason and of sentiment, of freedom and of justice, and to infuse in Europe that heroic spirit of freedom and sacrifice, which has always brought decision in the great hours of history. This is the primary task of all.”

In this brief phrase, De Gasperi traces the pillars on which to build the project of European unification: the defense of freedom, the promotion of justice and the building of peace.  At their center is the duty of solidarity, indispensable premise to obtain the other goods, because without it the other will always remain in some way a stranger, a concurrent and, therefore, someone to combat and dominate. Solidarity was the anti-dote to the tyrannical oppression and the commitment lived as a fundamental duty, which would have avoided the reappearance of the premises that led to the World War.

Mind you, however, that De Gasperi speaks of solidarity of reason and of sentiment. It is a particularly precious annotation, especially in our highly sentimental time, where even the most delicate questions are treated in an evanescent way, more to arouse emotions than to elaborate reflections. In recent times there has been a decided movement towards the “solidarity of reason.” For De Gasperi, this was an indispensable premise for the European project to grow and develop. Hence, solidarity isn’t “a good resolution: [it] is characterized by concrete facts and gestures, that bring one closer to one’s neighbor, regardless of the condition in which he finds himself.”[3] It’s not based on the compassion or repulsion that the other arouses, but on the objectivity of our common human nature. In Christian terms we would say that it’s based on the awareness of being part of one body by which if one member suffers, all suffer (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:26).

And it’s precisely this characteristic of objectivity and reasonableness that binds duties and rights between them. Because to the objective duty of solidarity towards one’s neighbor corresponds that ensemble of rights as objectives of every human person. Wherever objectivity is lacking, the system of rights itself loses its significance. It’s what has been happening in the last fifty years when “the interpretation of some rights has been progressively modified, so as to include a multiplicity of ‘new rights,’ not rarely in opposition between them,”[4] creating the premises for what the Pope describes as the modern ideological colonization.

 This process of relativizing of rights is intimately connected to the progressive exclusion of the religious sphere from social life, in its turn fruit of unhealthy secularism, which opposes Caesar to God, instead of granting them a positive interaction, though with the obvious distinction of the realms. Therefore, Saint John Paul II affirmed, one “does not marvel so much about the attempts to give a face to Europe excluding the religious heritage and, in particular, the profound Christian spirit, founding the rights of the peoples that make it up without grafting them on the trunk watered by the vital lymph of Christianity.”[5]

One of the dramatic outcomes of this process is the fragmentation of existence:[6] second worrying sign of our time, marked by loneliness and individualism.[7] Unfortunately — John Paul II continues — Europe had known in these years “the grave phenomenon of family crises and the failure of the very concept of the family, (. . . ) the rebirth of some racist attitudes, the same inter-religious tensions, the egocentrism that shuts individuals and groups in themselves, the growth of a general ethical indifference and of spasmodic care for one’s own interests and privileges.”[8] They are words that sixteen years later are still prophetic.

The weakening of the sense of duty and the progressive subjectivism of rights has thus weakened the very heart of the European project. To this imbalance, in what we could describe as its “theoretical premises,” have contributed in the last decade the many crises that have struck the Continent: from the financial, which put to a hard test the keeping of the Euro, to the success of the British referendum, which has questioned  the cohesion of the entire European project; from the migratory question, which has made the notable fractures that exist between the Member States of the European Union, as well as the problem of religious and cultural identity in an ever more de-Christianized Continent, to the advance of populism and anti-European sentiments which have made evident  a detachment for some time between the ideal of a united Europe and the people that make it up. Added to these crises is the growing emotionality and reactivity of the political choices, often deprived of an underlying vision and committed to a sort of “visual navigation” rather than a farsighted project that addresses the problems seeking lasting solutions. Among the various crises I have mentioned, I pause briefly on the migratory, given its constant present importance and the capacity the argument has to “ignite spirits.,” fuelling ideological oppositions that do not take into full account the complexity of the problem. I believe it’s evident to all how such a delicate a subject can’t be effectively addressed without a clear political vision at all levels. However, how can such a vision be held, without a cultural perspective, which makes it possible to address the wide spectrum of the connected problems? How can one avoid pausing in a reactive way on the media’s echo of the question? How can one avoid a grave human and humanitarian problem being transformed solely into an arid diatribe on quotas and borders? What can be done so as not to be limited simply to opposing, on one hand, the needs of migrants to the rights of citizens? How can one avoid immigrants continuing to be victims of traffickers and that the citizens, especially of countries such as Italy that are in the front line perceive a general sense of insecurity and impotence in face of a problem that, despite the efforts, remains to a great extent still not addressed?

If there is an aspect that strikes anyone who comes into contact with Pope Francis it is his profound humanity. He sees in the other essentially and primarily a person. All the other characteristics of that person end up in some way in the second plane. Then one understands why, speaking of Europe, he has often insisted on the centrality of the person, as the principal antidote to the attempt to “classify” and categorize others. “The first, and perhaps the greatest contribution that Christians can make to the Europe of today — affirms the Pope — is to remind that it’s not a collection of numbers and institutions, but is made up of persons,”[9] gifted with transcendent dignity,[10] and with an “innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, whose “compass” is inscribed [in the heart] and which God has printed in the created universe.”[11] And persons have names, they have faces, which describe their most intimate and profound identity, their being related to the infinite mystery of God: “Your Name Is Born from What You Gazed On,” as the thought-provoking title of this Meeting states, taken from a poem of Karol Wojtyla. The name and face spring in fact from the bond with God that renders one a person. And precisely at the origin of the idea of Europe there is — De Gasperi points out — “the figure and the responsibility of the human person with his leaven of evangelical fraternity, [. . . ] with his will for truth and for justice acquired by age-old experience.”[12] However, — adds Pope Francis — to recognize that the other is, first of all, a person, means to value what unites me to him. To be a person links one to others, it makes us be community.[13]And community is a cardinal word of Europe because the European project arises with the idea of giving life to a community of peoples that accept to be bound with mutual duties.

Therefore, returning to the delicate migratory question, it’s necessary to rediscover the duties, more than the rights, which are at stake. There is first of all the most obvious duty: that of human solidarity towards the person that is in need, in suffering and often in danger. It is a duty that before regarding States and governments, has to do with each one of us. It is the ABC of Christian charity: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you came to me” (Matthew 25:35-36).

The duty to help one’s neighbor, in as much as person, is a fundamental duty, but certainly not the only one. It must be balanced by the also important duty that belongs to the States to offer opportunities of integration to migrants and security to their own citizens. In this connection, the Holy Father, who has persons first of all at heart, was particularly clear: a duty cannot be preferred to the detriment of another. There must be the “virtue of prudence, which is the virtue of the ruler, (. . . ) for a people that can receive but doesn’t have the possibility to integrate, it’s better not to receive,”[14] because “it cannot be thought that the migratory phenomenon is an indiscriminate process and without rules,”[15] stressed Pope Francis.

There is then the duty of solidarity between the States. This is — as I recalled a short while ago — a cardinal principle of the very existence of the European Union. Therefore, it can’t be thought that the question is of interest solely to “border” countries. It’s obviously not up to me, and even less so to the Holy See, to offer practical solutions from this point of view, because it’s an internal question.

However, it’s not possible to fail to detect that current imbalance present, which needs to be corrected, because the fallouts of such imbalance are evident to all.

Finally, it’s necessary to recall that there is also the duty of the migrants themselves. It’s their duty to become familiar with the land they have reached, to learn the language, and to know the cultural and religious traditions. Sometimes there is the sensation that the birth of ghettos is preferred to avoid the “contaminations” that come from abroad. It’s a comfortable solution, not rarely sought also by the migrants as well as by those that receive them. The news has already shown how such a solution is of short duration and acquires problems, instead of solving them. The duty of migrants to integrate themselves is, instead, a great opportunity.  For them, first of all, because it inserts them in the new social context which they have reached and frees them from the dynamics that they fled from in their homeland, and that often reappear in the lands of landing remaining in the heart of their national communities. It is also an opportunity for one who receives to rediscover, appreciate and communicate effectively hi cultural tradition and his popular identity.

I thank you for your attention.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 [1] Francis, Rethink the Future of Relations. Addresses on Europe, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 2018, 18.

[2] Cf. De Gasperi and Europe, Writings and Addresses, edited by M.R. De Gasperi, Brescia, 1979, 68-71.

[3] Francis, Rethink the Future of Relations, cit., 88.

[4] Francis, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See for the Presentation of Good Wishes for the New Year, January 8, 2018.

[5] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Europa,” June 28, 2003, 7.

[6] Ibid., 8.

[7] Cf. Francis, Rethink the Future of Relations, cit. , 99-100.

[8] John Paul II, Ecclesia in Europa, 8.

[9] Francis, Rethink the Future of Relations, cit. , 98.

[10] Cf. Ibid., 19.

 [11] Ibid.

[12] A. De Gasperi, Our Homeland Europe. Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, April 21, 1954, in: Alcide De Gasperi e la Politica Internazionale, Cinque Lune, Rome, 1990, Vol. III, 437-440.

[13] Francis, Rethink the Future of Relations, cit., 99.

[14] Francis, Press Conference on the Return Flight from Ireland, August 26, 2018.

[15] Francis, Rethink the Future of Relations, cit., 105.

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