“Building Europe together: 50 years of the Holy See in the Council of Europe”. This is the central theme of the colloquium organised in the Faculty of Theology of the University of Strasbourg, from January 7 to 9, 2020.

On January 7, Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, or Vatican ‘Foreign Minister’, reflected on the theme “What vision of Europe today?”

During his speech he recalled that this year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was approved on November 4, 1950 and “constitutes a true cornerstone for the protection of people against any violation of human rights”.

The protection of the human person: a priority in Europe

Today the main functions of the Council of Europe are precisely “linked to the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.

“It is a particularly precious work, with important ethical and social implications […] on which the development of our societies, their peaceful coexistence and their future depends”, said Archbishop Gallagher, citing the words of Pope Francis during his speech to the Council of Europe in 2014.

In his speech, the Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See proposed “an idea of Europe that does not ignore its foundation and its Christian roots”, and that presents ideas intended not only for Catholics or Christians but ideas which “may constitute elements of reflection for every person of good will”.

Human rights, a fundamental issue

The prelate highlighted “human rights and human dignity” as one of the most important issues for the Holy See, as well as one of the main areas of action of the Council of Europe.

Human rights constitute “a fundamental heritage with which each person is gifted”, regardless of “their race, ethnicity, sex, opinion, nationality or religion”.

Over the last few decades, the Church’s doctrinal reflection on social issues has deepened, focusing “on the origin of the human person created in the image of God and saved by Christ”.

“The Church is able to offer a harmonious vision in which rights are balanced with their respective duties. In Creation, God the Creator and Lord, has given every human person, man or woman, the same high dignity”, said Archbishop Gallagher.

Education: establish the essence of the human

“We can only talk about an educational vision if we know who man is, who woman is”. By establishing “the essence, nature [and] earthly and spiritual truth of the human person, education has only one meaning: to take a child and guide him or her so that his or her nature can flourish and be fully realised. Man by nature is a being in formation and in perpetual development”, Gallagher explained.

Commitment to migration

Another issue discussed referred to migrations, which are at the heart of all human history and that particularly attract the attention of Pope Francis.

In the context of the demographic and cultural transformations generated by this phenomenon, the prelate stressed that a purely legal or legalistic approach would not be sufficient to solve the challenges posed by migration.

“A deep, extensive and universal commitment is absolutely necessary to create a new mentality, because the risk of migration without humaneness remains very high”, said Gallagher.

The interfaith dimension

In line with the Document on the Human Fraternity of Abu Dhabi, Monsignor Gallagher also highlighted the importance of interfaith dialogue and a sincere promotion of religious freedom.

“The document urges universal fraternity, but also to adhere to a common commitment, so that all means are used to promote at all levels the culture of encounter, dialogue, peace and respect”, said the prelate, recognising at the same time that “there is still a long way to go”.

Reflection on cultural wealth

“Cultures are the true wealth of humanity, but they still need to be purified of the distortions that threaten them from time to time”, added the British archbishop, also emphasising that today, the culture of the ephemeral and the culture of death is firmly imposed.

“Europe must reflect on whether its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic and religious heritage is the simple heritage of a museum of the past, or if it is still able to inspire culture and open its treasures for all humanity”, Gallagher stressed.

An ethical approach, in the objectivity of nature

“Today we see the increasingly fuzzy idea that the law is what determines what is ethical, and no longer that ethics is what inspires the law”, Gallagher continued, declaring that Christians have a central role to play so that “the ethical foundation is anchored in the objectivity of nature”.

“It is only from this objectivity and the axiology that derives from it that we can avoid the deviations that occur”, Gallagher warned.

Politicians, called to bear witness to a docile heart

In the face of the explosion of the political debate “into a thousand ideas and projects” that divide even the interior of the parties, the political person must rediscover the responsibility that should guide his action, “before God and before humans, for each of his or her words, his or her actions, his or her legislative measures or decisions in relation to the government of the people”, explained the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.

Highlighting the example given by the biblical figure of King Solomon, the prelate said that “he who rules is called to bear witness to the wisdom” of a “docile heart, which knows how to do justice to the people and distinguish good from evil”.

“This is the essential way to build the peace to which the world aspires today more than ever”, Gallagher insisted.

Open ourselves together to the future

“The world lives as if broken and crushed by its closures and its polarisations, far from the universal and natural values that God has placed in the heart of every human person”, Monsignor Gallagher also observed in his speech, stressing that “to rebuild Europe together, we need unity”.

At the conclusion of his address, the prelate expressed the wish: “That together we can open ourselves to the future to continue, despite everything, building our beloved Europe!”

(Source: Vatican News; Novena translation)

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