Joseph Weiler in Turin for the exposition of “Moments of Dignity” and “The Soul of Space.”

Dignity, the "Core" of Man

After the presentation at the meeting, Joseph H.H. Weiler's photos are on display at the Einaudi Campus; Their theme: the human condition.
Letizia Bardazzi

In the main hall of the Einaudi Campus at the University of Turin, under the famous suspended roof, “Moments of Dignity” and “The Soul of Space”, the two photographic exhibits by Joseph H.H. Wieler are on display, after they were first presented at the Meeting of Rimini in 2015.

Two types of pictures: fourteen photographs representing people, the other fourteen, representing places. But both of the series need to be viewed not so much for their artistic technique, as for their particular approach to the human condition and to the dignity of existence.

The faces are of people from every part of the world. Different in appearance, culture, age, gender and experience, each one was captured in a moment of dignity, that of a creature made in the image and likeness of the Creator. “We are all equal in dignity: the king and his servant. And at the same time we are all unique,” says Weiler.

In his photographs dedicated to the soul of space, Weiler did not seek out the harmony of urban landscapes, the work of great architects and engineers, but unexpected place, surprises where human nature is reflected in all its richness and irreducible dignity: “They are not panoramas or landscapes from National Geographic, but they make us wonder what these images of the human stature are saying to us.”

Weiler is an internationally famous jurist, president of the European University Institute and, as a consequence, an expert on Europe, as well as on Sacred Scripture. With these images he wants to tell about his greatest interest, the “core” of the question: the beauty of being created.

The Pier Giorgio Frassati Cultural Center and the Vasilij Grossman Center were the promoters of this initiative, and, after a visit to the place of the exposition, they engaged in a dialogue with Professor Weiler about human rights and the dignity of man as the foundation of society. With him were Michele Rosboch, professor at the university, and Rosario Ferrara, director of the School of Juridical Sciences at the University of Turin.

The conversation began from the question which Pope Francis posed to officials of the European Union, for the conferral of the Charlemagne Prize: “Europe, what has happened to you?”

Weiler responded to this question by examining three processes initiated by the Second World War, which have their effects even today. The first regards the progressive loss of the importance of “patriotism”. In Italy, as in the rest of the Continent, the noble sense of this word was lost, a word which describes the love of a nation, care for its safekeeping, for its language, for its culture, which creates connections and responsibilities. Our democracies, Weiler says, are not republics, but mercantile business States: “We are shareholders who demand services without assuming any personal responsibility. If something does not work, it is always the fault of somebody else.”

The second process has to do with the centrality of human rights: by putting the individual at the center, little by little, without realizing it, we have transformed man into a self-centered subject, politically narcissistic, which has generated a flattening of culture and identity, in which the uniqueness of the single person is not recognized in its depth.

The third and last process is secularization. Believers and non-believers, before the massive laicization that invested all the countries of the Union (just think that today, in England, there are more Muslims who go to the mosque than Christians who go to church), had to reckon with a voice that spoke in the public square about duties and responsibilities towards others. Even the European Union was conceived as a “Community of Destiny”, where there would be a mutual responsibility that overcame the mere pursuit of national interests. Something that happened in Italy, then, would have an effect in all the other countries, and vice versa. European integration has this common destiny as its goal.

Today, there are many examples of this full responsibility that leads to the good of all, Weiler says. Just think of the Piazza dei Mestieri (“Craft Square”), which he visited before the encounter. The pride and joy of Turin, here young brewers, bakers, hairdressers and waiters are trained. And the faces of those kids tell us that someone took responsibility, with them, for their good in a deep way.