Rompuy. Herman van: “A Temple for Europe”

In a key note speech, delivered on 4 June 2012 at the Chapel of the Resurrection, President Herman Van Rompuy recently set out his vision for a united Europe based on values and on the Christian conviction that caring for others means finding yourself.

adies and gentlemen,

1. The Person

Van RompuyMartin Buber, the Viennese-born Jewish philosopher, had a great influence on personalist thinking. In his fundamental work “I and Thou” he wrote the following: “In the beginning is relationship. All true life is encounter. It is encounter which creates, with the presence of the other, the reality of time as present. I become myself in contact with “You”, I become “I” by saying “You”.

This is, in a nutshell, the essence of my thinking, my personalist approach. Personalist and Christian.

In placing the emphasis on the other, it is not the other as an individual that I am interested in, but the other as a person, a person whom, in Christian terms, I call neighbour, my neighbour.

The individual characteristically defines himself by reference to what is not himself. His approach is to isolate himself, to think in terms of isolation, voluntarily chosen. Taken to extremes, the isolated individual tends to think that the world began when he was born and that the future of the world will be linked to his own future.

Conversely, the person is profoundly and essentially a being of relationship. The person is a being who shows solidarity. This does not prevent him from being fully himself, both “solitary and in solidarity”, to take the title of a talk I gave at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The person is thus fully both: solitary and possessed of fellow-feeling; his solitude is not isolation.

2. Closed or open

You will have understood that it is in the light of this philosophy of relationship, this philosophy of encounter, that I wish to see Europe’s destiny unfold.

For Europe means friendship too. Some may think me naive, but was the first Franco-German Treaty not a friendship treaty?

Let us now extrapolate the concepts of individual and person to the whole of society. We end up with political ideas expressed on the one hand in populism and inward looking and on the other hand in solidarity, a sense of responsibility, and openness to the world.

In the course of its history Europe has often hesitated between these two approaches.

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