Solidarity, he said, is “not based on the compassion or repulsion that another arouses, but on the objectivity of a common human nature.”
The crises Europe has faced in the last decade from the financial crisis to Brexit have been compounded by the growing “emotionality and reactiveness of political choices,” he said.
“It is precisely this characteristic of objectivity and reasonableness that links duties and rights between them. Since the objective duty of solidarity with others corresponds to that set of rights that are as objective as any human person,” Gallagher said.
“Where objectivity is lacking, the same system of rights loses its meaningfulness. This is what has been happening in the last fifty years when the interpretation of some rights has progressively changed, so as to include a multiplicity of new rights,” he continued.
The process of “relativization of rights,” Gallagher said, is intricately connected to the progessive exclusion of religion from European social life, which has resulted in an unhealthy secularization.
Gallagher said that the result of this process is a “fragmentation of existence,” which he said was presciently described by St. John Paul II in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Europe:
“We find ourselves before a widespread existential fragmentation. A feeling of loneliness is prevalent; divisions and conflicts are on the rise. Among other symptoms of this state of affairs, Europe is presently witnessing the grave phenomenon of family crises and the weakening of the very concept of the family, the continuation or resurfacing of ethnic conflicts, the re-emergence of racism, interreligious tensions, a selfishness that closes individuals and groups in upon themselves, a growing overall lack of concern for ethics and an obsessive concern for personal interests and privileges,” John Paul II wrote in 2003.
“The weakening of the sense of duty and the progressive subjectivation of rights has therefore weakened the very heart of the European project,” Gallagher said.
“The European project arises with the idea of giving life to a community of peoples who agree to be bound by mutual duties,” he said at the Rimini “Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples.”
Gallagher outlined examples duties of states that relate to the migration issue in Europe.
“Above all, there is the most obvious duty: that of human solidarity with the person who is in need, suffering and often in danger,” he said.
He said that the duty of solidarity between states is “a key principle of the very existence of the European Union.”
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States also have a duty to offer opportunities for integration to migrants and security to their citizens, Gallagher said, explaining that cultural integration can free migrants from “the dynamics from which they had fled home and which often reappear in the lands of landing remaining within their national communities.”
In an interview with Vatican News Aug. 22, Gallagher responded to the current debate in Europe on national sovereignty surrounding both the migration and European Union issues.
“No one questions the sovereignty of a country, of a nation. The problem emerges … when there is again an exaggerated view of sovereignty, when there is an insistence on sovereignty,” he said.
“It is very difficult for a government to guarantee all rights to their peoples, as well as peace, defense, security. We are all interconnected… The idea that ‘sovereignty’ means a total closure to others perhaps has a certain theoretical, pragmatic attraction, but I do not think it's the path to follow,” he added.
Gallagher underlined in his speech in Rimini that when approaching the issue of migration, in particular, “ we need to rediscover the duties, rather than the rights,that are at stake.”
“The first and perhaps greatest contribution that Christians can bring to today's Europe - the Pope affirms - is to remind them that it is not a collection of numbers or institutions, but is made up of people, endowed with of transcendent dignity,” he said.