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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Archbishop calls for greater Catholic influence in Europe

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the secretary for relations with states for the Holy See, called for the Church to reinstate its moral presence in European politics in a lecture titled “The Catholic Church in the European Project” on Tuesday night in the Eck Visitors Center.

The talk was presented as part of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies’ annual Keely Lecture, which invites representatives from the Vatican to speak about the Church’s Catholic mission.

Gallagher opened the lecture by discussing the importance of looking to history to understand Europe’s present crises, referencing Pope Francis’ address to European heads of state and government.

“As the Holy Father expressed, we cannot understand our times apart from the past,” he said.

“ ... Without such an awareness, humanity loses a sense of the meaning of its activity and its progress towards the future.”

Gallagher said many new cultural and political developments have caused Europe to stray from its Christian roots.

“There is a loss of Europe’s Christian memory and heritage, accompanied by a kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference,” he said.

Gallagher said this mentality poses a danger to all aspects of European life.

“If it does not recognize its roots, then Europe deceives itself into thinking it possesses a vitality,” he said. “Thus reducing its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic and religious heritage into a mere museum piece of the past, rather than the lifeblood of the present.”

In recent years, the European Union has begun to reinforce this trend by exaggerating individual-centric rights in place of those that promote unity and solidarity, he added.

“Today there is a tendency to claim ever-broader individual rights,” Gallagher said.

“ ... Underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological constructs.”

Gallagher said this ideology has caused an “existential fragmentation” marked by “loneliness and individualism” to embed itself in European society.

This phenomenon has manifested itself in Europe’s declining birth rate as well as its struggling job market, he added.

Gallagher said this growing individualism has caused a widespread skepticism towards the European Union and, consequently, the reemergence of nationalism within its nations.

“When solidarity is absent, it becomes difficult to work to build the common good in society,” he added.

The importance of seeing the humanity behind the crises Europe faces today is crucial in combating this mentality, Gallagher said.

“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,” he said. “ ...The main task for the Church in contemporary Europe is to place the human person in the center.”

To do so, he added, the Church ought to regain its guiding role in European politics and encourage its nations to promote an attitude of solidarity within one another.

The Church must “be to the world what the soul is to the body,” he said. “... A moral voice, to revive its memory and to indicate an ideal horizon for life.”