The Holy Father

A Document oh Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together February 2019

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

(3-5 FEBRUARY 2019)

A DOCUMENT ON

HUMAN FRATERNITY

FOR WORLD PEACE AND LIVING TOGETHER


 

INTRODUCTION

Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.

This transcendental value served as the starting point for several meetings characterized by a friendly and fraternal atmosphere where we shared the joys, sorrows and problems of our contemporary world. We did this by considering scientific and technical progress, therapeutic achievements, the digital era, the mass media and communications. We reflected also on the level of poverty, conflict and suffering of so many brothers and sisters in different parts of the world as a consequence of the arms race, social injustice, corruption, inequality, moral decline, terrorism, discrimination, extremism and many other causes.

From our fraternal and open discussions, and from the meeting that expressed profound hope in a bright future for all human beings, the idea of this Document on Human Fraternity was conceived. It is a text that has been given honest and serious thought so as to be a joint declaration of good and heartfelt aspirations. It is a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and
sisters.

 

DOCUMENT

In the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace;

In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity;

In the name of the poor, the destitute, the marginalized and those most in need whom God has commanded us to help as a duty required of all persons, especially the wealthy and of means;

In the name of orphans, widows, refugees and those exiled from their homes and their countries; in the name of all victims of wars, persecution and injustice; in the name of the weak, those who live in fear, prisoners of war and those tortured in any part of the world, without distinction;

In the name of peoples who have lost their security, peace, and the possibility of living together, becoming victims of destruction, calamity and war;

In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal;

In the name of this fraternity torn apart by policies of extremism and division, by systems of unrestrained profit or by hateful ideological tendencies that manipulate the actions and the future of men and women;

In the name of freedom, that God has given to all human beings creating them free and distinguishing them by this gift;

In the name of justice and mercy, the foundations of prosperity and the cornerstone of faith;

In the name of all persons of good will present in every part of the world;

In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.

We, who believe in God and in the final meeting with Him and His judgment, on the basis of our religious and moral responsibility, and through this Document, call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing.

We call upon intellectuals, philosophers, religious figures, artists, media professionals and men and women of culture in every part of the world, to rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere.

This Declaration, setting out from a profound consideration of our contemporary reality, valuing its successes and in solidarity with its suffering, disasters and calamities, believes firmly that among the most important causes of the crises of the modern world are a desensitized human conscience, a distancing from religious values and a prevailing individualism accompanied by materialistic philosophies that deify the human person and introduce worldly and material values in place of supreme and transcendental principles.

While recognizing the positive steps taken by our modern civilization in the fields of science, technology, medicine, industry and welfare, especially in developed countries, we wish to emphasize that, associated with such historic advancements, great and valued as they are, there exists both a moral deterioration that influences international action and a weakening of spiritual values and responsibility. All this contributes to a general feeling of frustration, isolation and desperation leading many to fall either into a vortex of atheistic, agnostic or religious extremism, or into blind and fanatic extremism, which ultimately encourage forms of dependency and individual or collective self-destruction.

History shows that religious extremism, national extremism and also intolerance have produced in the world, be it in the East or West, what might be referred to as signs of a “third world war being fought piecemeal”. In several parts of the world and in many tragic circumstances these signs have begun to be painfully apparent, as in those situations where the precise number of victims, widows and orphans is unknown. We see, in addition, other regions preparing to become theatres of new conflicts, with outbreaks of tension and a build-up of arms and ammunition, and all this in a global context overshadowed by uncertainty, disillusionment, fear of the future, and controlled by narrow-minded economic interests.

We likewise affirm that major political crises, situations of injustice and lack of equitable distribution of natural resources – which only a rich minority benefit from, to the detriment of the majority of the peoples of the earth – have generated, and continue to generate, vast numbers of poor, infirm and deceased persons. This leads to catastrophic crises that various countries have fallen victim to despite their natural resources and the resourcefulness of young people which characterize these nations. In the face of such crises that result in the deaths of millions of children – wasted away from poverty and hunger – there is an unacceptable silence on the international level.

It is clear in this context how the family as the fundamental nucleus of society and humanity is essential in bringing children into the world, raising them, educating them, and providing them with solid moral formation and domestic security. To attack the institution of the family, to regard it with contempt or to doubt its important role, is one of the most threatening evils of our era.

We affirm also the importance of awakening religious awareness and the need to revive this awareness in the hearts of new generations through sound education and an adherence to moral values and upright religious teachings. In this way we can confront tendencies that are individualistic, selfish, conflicting, and also address radicalism and blind extremism in all its forms and expressions.

The first and most important aim of religions is to believe in God, to honour Him and to invite all men and women to believe that this universe depends on a God who governs it. He is the Creator who has formed us with His divine wisdom and has granted us the gift of life to protect it. It is a gift that no one has the right to take away, threaten or manipulate to suit oneself. Indeed, everyone must safeguard this gift of life from its beginning up to its natural end. We therefore condemn all those practices that are a threat to life such as genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, human trafficking, abortion and euthanasia. We likewise condemn the policies that promote these practices.

Moreover, we resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood. These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from a political manipulation of religions and from interpretations made by religious groups who, in the course of history, have taken advantage of the power of religious sentiment in the hearts of men and women in order to make them act in a way that has nothing to do with the truth of religion. This is done for the purpose of achieving objectives that are political, economic, worldly and short-sighted. We thus call upon all concerned to stop using religions to incite hatred, violence, extremism and blind fanaticism, and to refrain from using the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression. We ask this on the basis of our common belief in God who did not create men and women to be killed or to fight one another, nor to be tortured or humiliated in their lives and circumstances. God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His name to be used to terrorize people.

This Document, in accordance with previous International Documents that have emphasized the importance of the role of religions in the construction of world peace, upholds the following:

– The firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace; to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence; to re-establish wisdom, justice and love; and to reawaken religious awareness among young people so that future generations may be protected from the realm of materialistic thinking and from dangerous policies of unbridled greed and indifference that are based on the law of force and not on the force of law;

– Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept;

– Justice based on mercy is the path to follow in order to achieve a dignified life to which every human being has a right;

– Dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity;

– Dialogue among believers means coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values and, from here, transmitting the highest moral virtues that religions aim for. It also means avoiding unproductive discussions;

– The protection of places of worship – synagogues, churches and mosques – is a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws and international agreements. Every attempt to attack places of worship or threaten them by violent assaults, bombings or destruction, is a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of international law;

– Terrorism is deplorable and threatens the security of people, be they in the East or the West, the North or the South, and disseminates panic, terror and pessimism, but this is not due to religion, even when terrorists instrumentalize it. It is due, rather, to an accumulation of incorrect interpretations of religious texts and to policies linked to hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression and pride. This is why it is so necessary to stop supporting terrorist movements fuelled by financing, the provision of weapons and strategy, and by attempts to justify these movements even using the media. All these must be regarded as international crimes that threaten security and world peace. Such terrorism must be condemned in all its forms and expressions;

– The concept of citizenship is based on the equality of rights and duties, under which all enjoy justice. It is therefore crucial to establish in our societies the concept of full citizenship and reject the discriminatory use of the term minorities which engenders feelings of isolation and inferiority. Its misuse paves the way for hostility and discord; it undoes any successes and takes away the religious and civil rights of some citizens who are thus discriminated against;

– Good relations between East and West are indisputably necessary for both. They must not be neglected, so that each can be enriched by the other’s culture through fruitful exchange and dialogue. The West can discover in the East remedies for those spiritual and religious maladies that are caused by a prevailing materialism. And the East can find in the West many elements that can help free it from weakness, division, conflict and scientific, technical and cultural decline. It is important to pay attention to religious, cultural and historical differences that are a vital component in shaping the character, culture and civilization of the East. It is likewise important to reinforce the bond of fundamental human rights in order to help ensure a dignified life for all the men and women of East and West, avoiding the politics of double standards;

– It is an essential requirement to recognize the right of women to education and employment, and to recognize their freedom to exercise their own political rights. Moreover, efforts must be made to free women from historical and social conditioning that runs contrary to the principles of their faith and dignity. It is also necessary to protect women from sexual exploitation and from being treated as merchandise or objects of pleasure or financial gain. Accordingly, an end must be brought to all those inhuman and vulgar practices that denigrate the dignity of women. Efforts must be made to modify those laws that prevent women from fully enjoying their rights;

– The protection of the fundamental rights of children to grow up in a family environment, to receive nutrition, education and support, are duties of the family and society. Such duties must be guaranteed and protected so that they are not overlooked or denied to any child in any part of the world. All those practices that violate the dignity and rights of children must be denounced. It is equally important to be vigilant against the dangers that they are exposed to, particularly in the digital world, and to consider as a crime the trafficking of their innocence and all violations of their youth;

– The protection of the rights of the elderly, the weak, the disabled, and the oppressed is a religious and social obligation that must be guaranteed and defended through strict legislation and the implementation of the relevant international agreements.

To this end, by mutual cooperation, the Catholic Church and Al-Azhar announce and pledge to convey this Document to authorities, influential leaders, persons of religion all over the world, appropriate regional and international organizations, organizations within civil society, religious institutions and leading thinkers. They further pledge to make known the principles contained in this Declaration at all regional and international levels, while requesting that these principles be translated into policies, decisions, legislative texts, courses of study and materials to be circulated.

Al-Azhar and the Catholic Church ask that this Document become the object of research and reflection in all schools, universities and institutes of formation, thus helping to educate new generations to bring goodness and peace to others, and to be defenders everywhere of the rights of the oppressed and of the least of our brothers and sisters.

In conclusion, our aspiration is that:

this Declaration may constitute an invitation to reconciliation and fraternity among all believers, indeed among believers and non-believers, and among all people of good will;

this Declaration may be an appeal to every upright conscience that rejects deplorable violence and blind extremism; an appeal to those who cherish the values of tolerance and fraternity that are promoted and encouraged by religions;

this Declaration may be a witness to the greatness of faith in God that unites divided hearts and elevates the human soul;

this Declaration may be a sign of the closeness between East and West, between North and South, and between all who believe that God has created us to understand one another, cooperate with one another and live as brothers and sisters who love one another.

This is what we hope and seek to achieve with the aim of finding a universal peace that all can enjoy in this life.

Abu Dhabi, 4 february 2019

 

His Holiness
Pope Francis
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar
Ahmad Al-Tayyeb

 

 


© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Address of His Holiness to the Officials of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. 29 January 2019

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE OFFICIALS OF THE TRIBUNAL OF THE ROMAN ROTA
FOR THE INAUGURATION OF THE JUDICIAL YEAR

Clementine Hall
Tuesday, 29 January 2019


 

Excellency,
Dear prelate auditors,

I extend my cordial greetings to each of you, beginning with the Dean, whom I thank for his words. I greet those taking part in this meeting: the officials, the lawyers and other assistants of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota. I offer all of you my sincere good wishes for the Judicial Year we are inaugurating today.

The society in which we live is increasingly secularised, and does not further the growth of faith. As a result, the Catholic faithful struggle to bear witness to a lifestyle that is consistent with the Gospel, including with regard to the Sacrament of Marriage. In this context, the Church and her whole organizational structure, should act in harmony, in order to offer appropriate spiritual and pastoral support. In your daily ministry to Christian marriage, you deal with aspects that are not only part of the theology and canon law of marriage, but also, and first of all, the very essence of Christ’s Church: unity and fidelity. Indeed, these two marital “assets”, in fact, before being, or rather, in order to be, the legal obligations of every conjugal union in Christ, must be the manifestation of baptismal faith.

In order for marriage to be valid, each of the future spouses must establish full unity and harmony with the other, so that through the mutual exchange of their respective human, moral and spiritual riches — almost as if they were communicating vessels — the two spouses may become as one. Marriage also requires the commitment of fidelity, that lasts throughout life, becoming a stable consortium totius vitae (can. 1135).

Unity and fidelity are two important and necessary values, not only between spouses, but also more generally, in interpersonal and social relationships. We are all aware of the inconvenient factors which, in civil coexistence, lead to unfulfilled promises and the lack of fidelity to the promise made and to commitments assumed.

Unity and fidelity. These two indispensable and fundamental marital values must not only be appropriately presented to future spouses, but also require the pastoral action of the Church, especially of bishops and priests, to accompany the family in its different phases of formation and development. Naturally, such pastoral action cannot be confined to the completion of paperwork, albeit necessary and to be done carefully. A threefold approach to marriage preparation is needed: prior, forthcoming, and permanent. It is advisable that the latter cover the various phases of married life, presenting them in a serious and structural way, by means of a thorough formation aimed at increasing the spouses’ awareness of the precise values and commitments inherent in their vocation.

By virtue of their office and ministry, the pastors are the main subjects of this marriage formation. However, it is particularly timely, indeed necessary, to involve the ecclesial communities through their various components, who share the responsibility for this pastoral care, under the guidance of the diocesan bishop and the parish priest. Thus, the duty is shared in solidum, with pastors taking the primary responsibility helped by the active participation of the community in promoting marriage and in accompanying families with spiritual and formative support.

In order to understand this pastoral need, it will be good for us to consider the experience of the holy spouses Aquila and Priscilla [narrated] in the Scriptures. They were among the most faithful companions in the mission of Saint Paul who called them gratefully and affectionately his sinergoi, that is, assistants who wholeheartedly shared in the Apostle’s concerns and work. One is impressed and moved by Paul’s acknowledgement of the missionary work of these spouses. And at the same time, one can recognize how this synergy was a precious gift of the Spirit to the first Christian communities. Let us ask the Holy Spirit therefore, to give to the Church today too, priests who are able to appreciate and value the charisms of spouses with a robust faith and apostolic spirit, like Aquila and Priscilla.

To fulfil the Church’s steady and permanent pastoral care for the good of marriage and of the family, various pastoral tools are required: drawing close to the Word of God, especially through the lectio divina, catechetical encounters, involvement in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist; spiritual dialogue and direction. Informal groups and charitable services can be organized to promote exchanges with other families and openness to the needs of the most disadvantaged.

On the other hand, spouses, who live their marriage in generous unity and with faithful love, supporting each other with the grace of the Lord and with the necessary support of the ecclesial community, are in turn a precious pastoral aid to the Church. Indeed, they offer to all an example of true love and become witnesses and assistants of the fruitfulness of the Church herself. Truly, many Christian couples are a silent sermon for all, a “weekday” sermon, I would say, for every day. And we must unfortunately note that a married couple that has lived together for many years does not make the news — this is sad — while scandals, separations and divorces do (cf. Homily at Santa Marta, Friday, 18 May 2018).

Spouses who live in unity and fidelity are a good reflection of the image and likeness of God. This is the good news: that fidelity is possible, because it is a gift in spouses and in priests. This is the news that should surely strengthen and console bishops and priests in their faithful ministry filled with evangelical love, just as the love and conjugal faithfulness of the spouses Aquila and Priscilla were of comfort to Paul and Apollos.

Dear Prelate Auditors, I renew my gratitude to each one of you for the good you do for the People of God, in the service of justice through your verdicts. In addition to the importance of the judgement itself for the interested parties, these contribute to the correct interpretation of matrimonial law. This law is at the service of the salus animarum and of the faith of spouses. Thus, we comprehend the timely reference in the Rota’s verdicts to the principles of Catholic doctrine, with regard to the natural idea of marriage, its duties and rights, and even more so, with regard to its sacramental reality.

Thank you very much for your work! I invoke divine assistance upon it, and I heartily impart my Apostolic Blessing. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you!

 


© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Apostolic Journey to Panama. Meeting with Central American Bishops (SEDAC) 24 January 2019

.APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO PANAMA ON THE OCCASION OF THE 34th WORLD YOUTH DAY

MEETING WITH CENTRAL AMERICAN BISHOPS (SEDAC)

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS

Church of San Francisco de Asis (Panama)
Thursday, 24 January 2019


 

Dear Brothers,

I thank Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador for his words of welcome in the name of all. I find here some old friends: this is a wonderful thing. I am happy to be able to be with you and to share in a closer and more direct way your hopes, projects and dreams as pastors to whom the Lord has entrusted the care of the holy people. Thank you for your fraternal welcome.

Meeting with you also gives me the opportunity to embrace your peoples and feel closer to them, to make my own their aspirations, but also their disappointments, and above all the unshakable faith that restores hope and encourages charity. Thank you for letting me be close to that tested yet simple faith seen on the faces of your people, who, though poor, know that “God is here; he is not sleeping, he is active, he watches and helps” (SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, Homily, 16 December 1979).

This meeting reminds us of an important ecclesial event. The bishops of this region were the first in America to create a means of communion and participation that continues to bear rich fruit: the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America (SEDAC). It has provided a forum for sharing, discernment and agreement that nurtures, revitalizes and enriches your Churches. Farsighted bishops gave a sign that, far from being merely programmatic, showed that the future of Central America – or of any area of the world – necessarily depends on clear thinking and the ability to broaden horizons and to join in a patient and generous effort to listen, understand, engage and involve. And, as a result, to discern the new horizons to which the Spirit is leading us (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 235).[1]

In the seventy-five years since its establishment, SEDAC has sought to share in the joys and sorrows, the struggles and the dreams of the peoples of Central America, whose history has been interwoven with and forged by the history of your own faithful. Many men and women, priests, consecrated and lay, have devoted their lives and even shed their blood to keep the Church’s prophetic voice alive in the face of injustice, the spread of poverty, and the abuse of power. I remember as a young priest how some of your surnames were a bad word, and how your perseverance indicated the way: thank you! They remind us that “those who really wish to give glory to God by their lives, who truly long to grow in holiness, are called to be single-minded and tenacious in their practice of the works of mercy” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 107). And this, not simply as almsgiving, but as a true vocation.

Among these prophetic fruits of the Church in Central America, I am happy to mention Saint Oscar Romero, whom I recently had the privilege of canonizing during the Synod on Young People. His life and his teachings remain a source of inspiration for our Churches and, in a special way, for us as bishops. He too was a bad word, suspected, excommunicated by the secretive gossip of many bishops. His episcopal motto, inscribed on his tombstone, clearly expresses the principle that guided his life as a pastor: to think with the Church. It was the compass for his life and fidelity, even in times of great turmoil.

His legacy can become an active and life-giving witness for us, who are likewise called to the daily martyrdom of serving our people, and on it, I would like to base the reflection, thinking with the Church. It is a reflection that I wish to share with you with the figure of Romero very much in mind. I know that some among us knew Archbishop Romero personally, like Cardinal Rosa Chávez, of whom Cardinal Quarracino told me of his candidature for the Nobel Prize for Fidelity! Your Eminence, if you think that I am mistaken in any of my assessments, you can correct me, without hesitation. To appeal to the figure of Romero is to appeal to the holiness and prophetic character present in the DNA of your particular Churches.

Thinking with the Church

1. Recognition and gratitude

When Saint Ignatius sets out the rules for thinking with the Church – forgive the publicity – he tries to help the retreatant overcome any type of false dichotomy or antagonism that would reduce the life of the Spirit to the habitual temptation to make God’s word serve our own interest. This can give the retreatant the grace to recognize that he is part of an apostolic body greater than himself, while at the same time being aware of his own strengths and abilities: an awareness that is neither feeble nor selective or rash. To feel part of a whole that is always more than the sum of its parts (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 235), and is linked to a Presence that will always transcend him (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 8).

So I would like to focus this preliminary thinking with the Church, along with Saint Oscar, on thanksgiving, or rather gratitude, for all the unmerited blessings we have received. Romero instinctively knew how to understand and appreciate the Church, because he loved her deeply as the wellspring of his faith. Without this deep love, it would be difficult to understand the story of his conversion. It was that same love that led him to martyrdom: a love born of receiving an utterly free gift, one that does not belong to us but instead frees us from any pretension or temptation to think that we are its proprietors or its sole interpreters. We did not invent the Church; she was not born with us and she will carry on without us. This attitude, far from encouraging sloth, awakens and sustains boundless and unimaginable gratitude. Martyrdom has nothing to do with faintheartedness or the attitude of those who do not love life and cannot recognize its value. On the contrary, the martyr is one who is capable of incarnating and living fully this act of thanksgiving.

Romero “thought with the Church”, because before all else he loved the Church as a mother who had brought him to birth in the faith. He felt a member and a part of her.

2. A love flavoured by people

This love, loyalty and gratitude brought him to embrace passionately but also with hard work and study, the currents of renewal authoritatively proposed by the Second Vatican Council. There he found a firm guide for Christian discipleship. He was neither an ideologue nor ideological; his actions were born of a thorough familiarity with the Council documents. Against this ecclesial horizon, thinking with the Church meant, for Romero, contemplating her as the People of God. For the Lord did not want to save us alone and apart from others, but to establish a people who would profess him in truth and serve him in sanctity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 9). A people that as a whole possesses, guards and celebrates the “anointing of the Holy One” (ibid., 12), and to whom Romero carefully listened, so as not to be deprived of the inspiration (cf. SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, Homily, 16 July 1978). In this way, Romero showed us that the pastor, in order to seek and discover the Lord, must learn to listen to the heartbeat of his people. He must smell the “odour” of the sheep, the men and women of today, until he is steeped in their joys and hopes, their sorrows and their anxieties (cf. Gaudium et spes, 1), and in so doing ponder the word of God (cf. Dei Verbum, 13). His must be an approach that listens to the people entrusted to his care, to the point of identifying with them and discovering from them the will of God who calls us (cf. Address at the Meeting on the Family, 4 October 2014). An approach free of dichotomies or false antagonisms, for only the love of God is capable of integrating all our loves in a single feeling and gaze.

For Romero, in a word, to think with the Church means to take part in the Church’s glory, which is to live, heart and soul, the kenosis of Christ. In the Church, as the saint expressed in his homily of 1 October 1978, Christ lives among us, and so she must be humble and poor, since an aloof, prideful and self-sufficient Church is not the Church of kenosis.

3. Living, heart and soul, the kenosis of Christ

This is not only the Church’s glory, but also a vocation, a summons to make it our personal glory and our path of holiness. Christ’s kenosis is not a thing of the past, but a present pledge that we can sense and discover his presence at work in history. A presence that we neither can nor want to silence, since we know from experience that he alone is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Christ’s kenosis reminds us that God saves in history, in the life of each person, and that this is also his own history, from which he comes forth to meet us (cf. SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, Homily, 7 December 1978). It is important, brothers, that we not be afraid to draw near and touch the wounds of our people, which are our wounds too, and to do this in the same way that the Lord himself does. A pastor cannot stand aloof from the sufferings of his people; we can even say that the heart of a pastor is measured by his ability to be moved by the many lives that are hurting or threatened. To do this as the Lord does, means allowing this suffering to have an impact on our priorities and our preferences, influencing vigorously the use of our time and money, and even our way of praying. In this way, we will be able to anoint everything and everyone with the consoling friendship of Jesus Christ within a community of faith that contains and opens a constantly new horizon that gives meaning and hope to life (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 49). Christ’s kenosis involves giving up “virtual” ways of living and speaking, in order to listen to the sounds and repeated cries of real people who challenge us to build relationships. Allow me to say this: networks help to build relationships, but not roots; they are incapable of giving us a sense of belonging, of making us feel part of a single people. Without this sense, all our words, meetings, gatherings and writings will be the sign of a faith that failed to accompany the Lord’s kenosis, a faith that stopped halfway along the road. Where, even worse – recalling the words of a Latin-American author – we will be the sign of a faith in God without Christ, a Christ without a church, a church without a people.

Christ’s kenosis is young

This World Youth Day is a unique opportunity to go out to encounter and draw even closer to the experiences of our young people, so full of hope and desires, but also many hurts and scars. With them, we can interpret our world in a new way and recognize the signs of the times. For as the Synod Fathers affirmed, young people are one of the “theological sources” in which the Lord makes us know some of his expectations and challenges for the shaping of the future (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 64). With them, we can envision how to make the Gospel more visible and credible in the world in which we live. They are like a barometer for knowing where we stand as a community and as a society.

Young people bring with them a restlessness that we need to appreciate, respect and accompany. This is good for us, because it unsettles us and reminds us that a pastor never stops being a disciple and a wayfarer. This healthy restlessness both prods and precedes us. The Synod Fathers recognized this: “Young people, in certain aspects, go ahead of their pastors” (ibid., 66). The pastor in relation to his flock does not always go ahead; sometimes he must do so to indicate the way to the faithful; sometimes he must stay in the middle to appreciate what is happening, to understand his own; sometimes he must stay at the rear to protect the vulnerable so that none are left behind in danger of becoming disposable material. We should rejoice to see how the seed sown has not fallen on deaf ears. Many of the concerns and insights of young people took root in the family, encouraged by a grandmother or a catechist. Speaking of grandmothers, it’s already the second time I see her, yesterday and today, an elderly lady, thin, around my age, who had put on a mitre made of cardboard and with a sign that said “Holiness, we grandmothers also know how to “make a mess”. What a wonderful people! Young people learned much in the family as too in the parish and in educational and youth programmes. They then grew through hearing the Gospel within lively and fervent faith communities that provided rich soil in which they could flourish. How can we not be grateful to have young people concerned with the Gospel! Of course this is tiring and at times testing. A phrase from a Greek philosopher comes to mind which he himself applied to young people: “they are like horseflies on the back of a noble horse, preventing the horse from sleeping” (cf. Plato, The Apology of Socrates). Aren’t we the horses? This reality encourages us to help them grow by providing them with more and better opportunities to be part of God’s dream. The Church is naturally a Mother, and as such, she engenders life, bears it in her womb and protects it from all that threatens its growth: a “gestation” that takes place in freedom and for freedom. So I urge you to promote programmes and educational centres that can accompany, support and empower your young people. Please, snatch them from the streets before the culture of death can entice their young minds, taking advantage of their restlessness, selling them its smoke and mirrors, or offering its chimerical “solutions” to all their problems. Do so not paternalistically, looking down from on high – which they hate – because that is not what the Lord asks of us, but as true fathers and brothers to all. Young people are the face of Christ for us, and, as Romero said in his homily of 2 September 1979, we cannot reach Christ by descending from above, but by rising up from below.

Sadly, many young people have been taken in by easy answers that end up costing dearly. And there are so many others who have been offered short-sighted illusions within some movements that convert them into Pelagianists or self-sufficient individuals only to be abandoned halfway on the journey. As the Synod Fathers noted, young people find themselves boxed in and lacking opportunities, amid highly conflictual situations with no quick solution: domestic violence, the killing of women – our continent is experiencing a plague of this – armed gangs and criminals, drug trafficking, the sexual exploitation of minors and young people, and so on. It is painful to observe that at the root of many of these situations are experiences of being “orphaned”; without a mother, they are orphaned as the fruit of a culture and a society run amok. Often families have been broken by an economic system that did not prioritize persons and the common good, but made speculation its “paradise”, without worrying about who would end up paying the price. And so we see our young people without a home, without a family, without a community, without a sense of belonging, easy prey to the first charlatan who comes along.

Let us not forget that “man’s true pain belongs first to God” (George Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest). Let us not separate what he wanted to unite in his Son.

The future demands that we respect the present, by ennobling it and working to value and preserve the cultures of your peoples. Here too, dignity is at stake: in cultural self-esteem. Your peoples are not the “backyard” of society or of anyone. They have a rich history that needs to be appropriated, valued and encouraged. The seeds of the Kingdom were sown in these lands. We must recognize them, care for them and watch over them, so that none of the good that God has planted will languish, prey to spurious interests that sow corruption and grow rich by plundering the poor. Caring for these roots means caring for the rich historical, cultural and spiritual heritage that this land has for centuries been able to harmonize. Continue to speak out against the cultural and spiritual desertification of your towns that causes a radical poverty, since it weakens their power of resistance, the necessary and vital immunity that preserves their dignity at times of great difficulty. I congratulate you for the initiative whereby this World Youth Day started with the Day of Indigenous Youth – in the Diocese of David I believe – and with the Day of Youth for those of African descent. That was a good step in showing the multifaceted nature of our people.

In your most recent Pastoral Letter, you pointed out that, “our region has recently been affected by a new kind of migration, massive and organized. This has called attention to the reasons for forced migration and to the dangers it entails for the dignity of the human person” (SEDAC, Message to the People of God and All Persons of Good Will, 30 November 2018).

Many migrants have young faces; they are seeking a better life for their families. Nor are they afraid to take risks and to leave everything behind in order to offer them the minimum conditions for a better future. Realizing this is not enough; we need also to clearly proclaim a message that is “good news”. The Church, by virtue of her universality, can provide the fraternal hospitality and acceptance that can enable the communities of origin and of destination to dialogue and to help overcome fears and suspicions, and thus to consolidate the very bonds that migrations – in the collective imagination – threaten to break. “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” people can be the four words with which the Church, in this situation of mass migration, expresses her motherhood in the history of our time (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 147). The Vicar General of Paris, Monsignor Benoist de Sinety, has just published a book on welcoming immigrants (cf. Il faut que des voix s’élèvent. Accueil des migrants, un appel au courage, Paris 2018). It is a call to courage, a real gem, and he is here for this World Youth Day.

Every effort made to build bridges between ecclesial, parish and diocesan communities, and between your episcopal conferences, will be a prophetic gesture on the part of the Church, which is, in Christ, “a sign and instrument both of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1). This will help eliminate the temptation simply to call attention to the problem, and become instead a proclamation of the new life that the Lord gives us.

Let us recall the words of Saint John: “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:17-18).

All of these situations raise questions; they are situations summoning us to conversion, solidarity and decisive efforts to educate our communities. We cannot remain indifferent (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 41-44). Whereas the world, the spirit of the world, discards people, as we are painfully aware, Christ’s kenosis does not. We have experienced this, and we continue to experience it in our own flesh through forgiveness and conversion. This tension requires that we constantly ask ourselves, “Where do we wish to stand?”

The kenosis of Christ is priestly

We all know about Archbishop Romero’s friendship with Father Rutilio Grande, and how much he was affected by his assassination. It seared his heart as a man, a priest and a pastor. Romero was no human resources manager; that was not how he dealt with individuals or organizations, but as a father, a friend and a brother. He can serve as a yardstick, however daunting, to help us measure our own hearts as bishops and ask, “How much does the life of my priests affect me? How much do I let myself be impacted by what they experience, grieving when they suffer and celebrating their joys? The extent of ecclesial functionalism and clericalism – which represent a caricature and perversion of ministry – can start to be measured by these questions. This has to do not with changes in style, habits or language – all of which are certainly important – but above all with the time we bishops make to receive, accompany and sustain our priests, “real time” to care for them. That is what makes us good fathers.

Our priests are normally the ones responsible for making their flock the people of God. They are on the front lines. They shoulder the burden and the heat of the day (cf. Mt 20:12), exposed to an endless number of daily situations that can wear them down. So they need our closeness, our understanding and encouragement; they need our fatherhood. The outcome of our pastoral work, evangelization and mission does not depend on the material means and resources at our disposal, or on the number of our events and activities, but on the centrality of compassion: this is one of the unique things that we, the Church, can offer our brothers and sisters. I am worried about how the compassion of Christ has lost a central place in the Church, even among Catholic groups, or is being lost – not to be so pessimistic. Even in the Catholic media there is a lack of compassion. There is schism, condemnation, cruelty, exaggerated self-praise, the denouncing of heresy… May compassion never be lost in our Church and may the centrality of compassion never be lost in the life of a bishop. Christ’s kenosis is the supreme expression of the Father’s compassion. Christ’s Church is the Church of compassion, and that begins at home. It is always good to ask ourselves as pastors, “How much does the life of my priests affect me?” Am I able to be a father, or am I content to be a mere executive? Do I allow myself to be bothered? I think back on what Benedict XVI told his compatriots at the beginning of his pontificate: “Christ did not promise us an easy life. Those looking for comfort have dialled the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, to goodness, to an authentic human life”(BENEDICT XVI, Address to German Pilgrims, 25 April 2005). The bishop must grow in his ability, daily, to let himself be bothered, to be vulnerable to his priests. I am thinking of a former bishop of a large diocese, hard-working, who received visitors all morning. It often happened that when he finished receiving and was looking forward to his lunch, two priests would be waiting there, not in his diary. The bishop went back and listened to them as if he had the whole morning ahead of him. To allow ourselves to be bothered and to let the spaghetti be overcooked and the meat grow cold. To allow ourselves to be bothered by our priests.

We know that our work, our visits and meetings – especially in parishes – have a necessarily administrative component. This is part of our responsibility, but it does not mean that we should spend all our limited time on administrative tasks. When visiting, the most important thing – the one thing we cannot delegate – is “listening”. Many of our everyday tasks we ought to entrust to others. What we cannot delegate, however, is the ability to listen, the ability to keep track of the good health and the lives of our priests. We cannot delegate to others the door that must be open to them. An open door that invites trust rather than fear, sincerity rather than hypocrisy, a frank and respectful exchange rather than a stern monologue.

I recall the words of Blessed Rosmini, who was accused of heresy and is today blessed: “There is no doubt that only great men can form other great men… In the early centuries, the bishop’s house was the seminary of priests and deacons. The presence and saintly life of their prelate turned out to be a radiant, constant and sublime lesson, in which one learned theory from his learned words and practice from his diligent pastoral outreach. So the young Athanasius learned from Alexander, and so many others in like manner” (ANTONIO ROSMINI, The Five Wounds of the Holy Church).

It is important that the parish priest encounter a father, a shepherd in whom he can see a reflection of himself, not an administrator concerned about “reviewing the troops”. It is essential that, despite differing viewpoints and even eventual disagreements and arguments (which are normal and to be expected), priests should perceive their bishop as someone who is unafraid to get involved, to confront them, to encourage them and be an outstretched hand when they are bogged down. A man of discernment able to guide and to find practical and possible ways to move forward during the difficult times in each person’s life. When I was in Argentina, sometimes I would hear some say: “I called the bishop – priests called – and the secretary told me that his diary was full and that I should call in three weeks’ time. I was not asked why I was calling but told only that the bishop couldn’t receive me and that I would be put on the list”. Of course the priest concerned did not call again and kept his request to the bishop, good or bad, to himself. I offer this to you, not so much as advice, but rather as something that comes from the heart; yes, do have your diaries full, God be praised, knowing that you have earned your meal, but if you see that a priest has called today, then call him back tomorrow, latest, and say: “You called me. What’s up? Do you need me now or can you wait for such and such a day? That priest will know from that day on that he has a father.

The word “authority” is derived from the Latin root augere: “to increase, promote, advance”. The authority of a pastor is based on his ability to help others to grow, to give priority to his priests rather than himself (for that would simply make him a confirmed bachelor, not a father). The joy of a father and pastor lies in seeing his children grow and become fruitful. Brothers, let this be our authority and the sign of our fruitfulness.

And the final point: The kenosis of Christ is poor

Thinking with the Church means thinking with our faithful people, the suffering and hope-filled people of God. It means realizing that our ministerial identity is born and understood in the light of this unique and constitutive sense of our identity. Here I would repeat to you the words Saint Ignatius wrote to the Jesuits: “Poverty is a mother and a wall”; it gives birth and it encloses. A mother, because it asks us to be fruitful, to give life, to be able to give of ourselves in a way impossible for hearts that are selfish or avaricious. A wall because it shields us from one of the most subtle temptations we can face as consecrated persons. That is spiritual worldliness, which puts a religious and “pious” veneer over the desire for power and influence, over vanity and even pride and arrogance. A wall and a mother that can help us be a Church that is increasingly free because centred in the kenosis of her Lord. A Church that does not want her strength to be – as Archbishop Romero used to say – in the backing of the powerful or political leaders – but advances with noble detachment, relying only on the true strength born of the embrace of the crucified Jesus. This translates into clear, practical and visible signs, it challenges us and calls us to examine our consciences about our decisions and priorities in the use of our resources, influence and position. Poverty is a mother and a wall because, above all, it keeps our hearts from slipping into concessions and compromises that sap the freedom and courage that the Lord demands of us.

Brothers, as we now conclude, let us place ourselves beneath the mantle of the Blessed Virgin. Together let us ask her to keep watch over our hearts as shepherds. May she help us to be ever better servants of the body of her Son, the holy and faithful people of God that journeys, lives and prays here in Central America. Let us pray to Our Mother.

[Hail Mary]

May Jesus bless you and may Our Lady protect you. And please, do not forget to pray for me so that I can fulfil all that I have told you.

Thank you very much.


[1] Here I would call to mind those bishops, who, motivated by pastoral zeal and love for the Church, established this ecclesial body, like Archbishop Luis Chávez y González of San Salvador and Archbishop Víctor Sanabria of San José de Costa Rica, among others.

 


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Letter of his Holiness to the Pontifical Academy for Life. 06.01.2019

LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE PONTIFICAL ACADEMY FOR LIFE
FOR THE 25th ANNIVERSARY OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ACADEMY

 

Humana Communitas
[The Human Community]

 

The human community is God’s dream even from before the creation of the world (cf. Eph 1:3-14). In it, the eternal Son begotten of God the Father has taken flesh and blood, heart and emotions. Through the mystery of giving life, the great family of humanity is enabled to discover its true meaning. The ability of the family to initiate its members to human fraternity can be considered a hidden treasure that can aid that general rethinking of social policies and human rights whose need is so urgently felt today. All of us ought to grow in the awareness of our common origin in God’s love and creative act. Christian faith confesses the begetting of the Son as the ineffable mystery of the eternal unity between “bringing into being” and “benevolent love” within the life of the Triune God. A renewed proclamation of this often overlooked revelation can open a new chapter in the history of human community and culture, which today cries out — “groaning as if in labour pains” (cf. Rom 8:22) — for rebirth in the Spirit. God’s tenderness and his will to redeem all those who feel lost, abandoned, discarded, or hopelessly condemned, is revealed in the only-begotten Son. The mystery of the eternal Son who became one of us is the definitive witness to this “passion” of God. The mystery of Christ’s cross — “for us and for our salvation” — and resurrection — as “the firstborn of many brothers” (Rom 8:29) — tells us the extent to which God’s passion is directed to the redemption and full flourishing of human beings.

We need to renew a lively awareness of God’s passion for humanity and its world. Human beings were made by God “in his image” – “male and female” (Gen 1:27) – as spiritual and sentient, conscious and free. The relationship between man and woman is the primary place where all creation speaks with God and bears witness to his love. This world is the place where we are brought to life; it is the place and time in which we gain a foretaste of the heavenly home that is our destiny (cf. 2 Cor 5:1) and where we will live fully our communion with God and with all others. The human family is a community with a common origin and a common goal, whose attainment “is hidden, with Christ, in God” (Col 3:1-4). In our time, the Church is called once more to propose the humanism of the life that bursts forth from God’s passion for human beings. Our commitment to valuing, supporting and defending the life of every human being is ultimately motivated by God’s unconditional love. Such is the beauty and the allure of the Gospel, which does not reduce love of neighbour to criteria of economic or political convenience, or to “certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options” (Evangelii Gaudium, 39).

A passionate and productive history

1. That passion has inspired the work of the Pontifical Academy for Life from the time it was created twenty-five years ago by Saint John Paul II at the prompting of the eminent scientist and Servant of God Jérôme Lejeune. Recognizing the rapid and sweeping changes taking place in biomedicine, Pope John Paul saw the need for a more structured and organic approach and engagement in this area. The Academy was thus able to promote initiatives of research, education and communications aimed at demonstrating “that science and technology, at the service of the human person and his fundamental rights, contribute to the overall good of man and to the fulfilment of the divine plan of salvation.” (Saint John Paul II, Motu Proprio Vitae Mysterium [11 February 1994], 3). The new statutes of the Academy, issued on 18 October 2016, have given renewed impetus to its activities. The goal of the statutes is to make the Academy’s reflection on human life issues ever more attuned to the contemporary scene. The ever-quickening pace of technological and scientific innovation, and the phenomenon of globalization have multiplied interactions between cultures, religions and different fields of study, and among the many dimensions of our human family and the earth, our common home. Consequently, as Pope Francis pointed out to the General Assembly of the Academy, “there is an urgent need for greater study and discussion of the social effects of this technological development, for the sake of articulating an anthropological vision adequate to this epochal challenge. Yet your expert advice cannot be limited solely to offering solutions to the questions raised by specific ethical, social or legal conflict situations. The proposal of forms of conduct consistent with human dignity involves the theory and practice of science and technology in terms of their overall approach to life, its meaning and its value” (5 October 2017).

Loss of the human dimension and the paradox of “progress”

2. At this moment in time, passion for what is distinctively human, and for the whole human family, encounters serious obstacles. The joys of family relationships and social coexistence appear seriously diminished. Mutual distrust between individuals and peoples is being fed by an inordinate pursuit of self-interest and intense competition that can even turn violent. The gap between concern with one’s own well-being and the prosperity of the larger human family seems to be stretching to the point of complete division. In the Encyclical Laudato Sì, I pointed to the state of emergency existing in our relationship with the history of the earth and its peoples. This alarming situation is the result of the scarce attention paid to the decisive global issue of the unity of the human family and its future. The erosion of this sensitivity, due to worldly forces of conflict and war, is growing worldwide at a much higher rate than that of the production of goods. We are speaking of a real culture – indeed, it would be better to speak of anti-culture – of indifference to the community: hostile to men and women and in league with the arrogance of wealth.

3. This emergency reveals a paradox. How could it happen that, at the very moment of history when available economic and technological resources make it possible for us to care suitably for our common home and our human family, in obedience to God’s command, those same economic and technological resources are creating our most bitter divisions and our worst nightmares? People sense acutely and painfully, albeit often confusedly, the spiritual dejection, or even nihilism, that subordinates life itself to a world and a society dominated by this paradox. The attempt to dull this sense of deep distress by the blind pursuit of material pleasure produces the ennui of a life lacking in a purpose that can satisfy its spiritual yearning. Let us face the fact: men and women in our time are often demoralized and disoriented, bereft of vision. All of us are, to some extent, closed in on ourselves. The financial system and the ideology of consumerism regulate our needs and manipulate our desires, with little concern for beauty of a life in common and for the sustainability of our common home.

Responsible listening

4. Christians, hearing the cry of suffering peoples, need to react against the negativity that foments division, indifference and hostility. They must do so not simply for their own sake, but for that of everyone. And they need to do so now, before it is too late. The ecclesial family of disciples – and of all others who seek in that family reasons for hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) – has been planted on earth as “a sacrament, a sign and instrument a communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1). The restoration of each of God’s creatures to the joyful hope of his or her spiritual destiny must become the passionate theme of our preaching. It is urgent that the elderly have greater confidence in their best “dreams” and that the young have “visions” able to sustain them to act boldly in history (cf. Jl 3:1). At the level of culture, our goal must be a new and universal ethical perspective attentive to the themes of creation and human life. We cannot continue down the mistaken path followed in recent decades of allowing humanism to be deconstructed and considered simply as another ideology of the will to power. We must resist such ideologies, however strongly urged by the market and by technology, and choose humanism. The distinctiveness of human life is an absolute good, worthy of being ethically defended, precious for the care of creation as a whole. For humanism not to draw inspiration from the loving act of God would be a contradiction and a scandal. The Church must be the first to rediscover the beauty of this inspiration and make her contribution with renewed enthusiasm.

A difficult task for the Church

5. We acknowledge the difficulties involved in restoring this broader humanistic horizon, even within the Church. First, we can ask frankly if our ecclesial communities today realize and testify to the gravity of this contemporary emergency. Are they seriously focused on the passion and joy of proclaiming God’s love for the dwelling of his children on the earth? Or are they still overly focused on their own problems and on making timid accommodations to an essentially worldly outlook? We can question seriously whether we have done enough as Christians to offer our specific contribution to a vision of humanity capable of upholding the unity of the family of peoples in today’s political and cultural conditions. Or whether we have lost sight of its centrality, putting our ambition for spiritual hegemony over the governance of the secular city, concentrated as it is upon itself and its wealth, ahead of a concern for local communities inspired by the Gospel spirit of hospitality towards the poor and the hopeless.

Building universal fraternity

6. It is time for a new vision aimed at promoting a humanism of fraternity and solidarity between individuals and peoples. We know that the faith and love needed for this covenant draw their power from the mystery of history’s redemption in Jesus Christ, a mystery hidden in God even before the creation of the world (cf. Eph 1:7-10; 3:9-11; Col 1:13-14). We know too that human minds and hearts are not completely closed or insensible to the seeds of faith and the works of this universal fraternity sown by the Gospel of the kingdom of God. We must once again bring this fraternity to the fore. For it is one thing to feel forced to live together, but something entirely different to value the richness and beauty of the seeds of common life needing to be sought out and cultivated. It is one thing to resign oneself to seeing life as a battle against constant foes, but something entirely different to see our human family as a sign of the abundant life of God the Father and the promise of a common destiny redeemed by the infinite love that even now sustains it in being.

7. The ways of the Church all lead to man, as Saint John Paul II solemnly proclaimed in his first encyclical (Redemptor Hominis, 1979). Before him, Saint Paul VI, echoing the teaching of the Council, had stated in his own first encyclical that the Church family extends in concentric circles to all men and women, even to those who consider themselves extraneous to the faith and the worship of God (cf. Ecclesiam Suam, 1964). The Church shelters and protects the signs of grace and mercy that God offers to every human being who comes into this world.

Recognizing the signs of hope

8. In this mission, we are encouraged by signs that God is at work in our time. These signs need to be acknowledged and not overshadowed by certain negative factors. Along these lines, Saint John Paul II pointed to the many efforts to welcome and defend human life, the growing opposition to war and to the death penalty, and a greater concern for the quality of life and ecology. He also indicated as a sign of hope the development of bioethics as “reflection and dialogue – between believers and nonbelievers, as well as between believers of different religions – on ethical problems, even the most fundamental ones, that affect the life of man” (Evangelium Vitae, 27). The scientific community of the Pontifical Academy for Life has demonstrated, over the past twenty-five years, its ability to enter into this dialogue and to offer its own competent and respected contribution. A sign of this is its constant effort to promote and protect human life at every stage of its development, its condemnation of abortion and euthanasia as extremely grave evils that contradict the Spirit of life and plunge us into the anti-culture of death. These efforts must certainly continue, with an eye to emerging issues and challenges that can serve as an opportunity for us to grow in the faith, to understand it more deeply and to communicate it more effectively to the people of our time.

The future of the Academy

9. Before all else, we need to enter into the language and lives of men and women today, making the Gospel message incarnate in their concrete experiences, as the Council demanded. To appreciate the meaning of human life, we should begin with the experience of procreation; this will enable us to avoid reducing life merely to a biological concept or a universal abstraction divorced from relationships and from history. The primordial reality of our “flesh” precedes and makes possible all further consciousness and reflection, preventing us from thinking that we are the source of our own existence. Only after receiving the gift of life, and prior to any intention or decision of our own, can we become aware that we are in fact alive. Life necessarily entails being a child, welcomed and cared for, however inadequately in certain cases. “It thus seems reasonable to see a connection between the care we have received from the beginning of life, that enabled it to grow and develop, and the responsible care we in turn give to others… This precious connection preserves a human and God-given dignity that endures, even despite one’s loss of health, role in society and control over his or her body” (Letter of the Cardinal Secretary of State to the Conference on Palliative Care, 28 February 2018).

10. We know that the threshold of basic respect for human life is being crossed, and brutally at that, not only by instances of individual conduct but also by the effects of societal choices and structures. Business strategies and the pace of technological growth now, as never before, condition biomedical research, educational priorities, investment decisions and the quality of interpersonal relationships. The possibility of directing economic development and scientific progress towards the covenant between man and woman, towards caring for our common humanity and towards the dignity of the human person, surely arises from a love for creation that faith helps us to deepen and illuminate. The prospect of a global bioethics, with a broad vision and a concern for the impact of the environment on life and health, offers a significant opportunity for strengthening the new covenant between the Gospel and creation.

11. Our shared humanity demands a global approach to the questions raised by the dialogue between diverse cultures and societies that, in today’s world, are in increasingly close contact. May the Academy for Life be a place for courageous dialogue in the service of the common good. I encourage you not to be afraid to advance arguments and formulations that can serve as a basis for intercultural and interreligious, as well as interdisciplinary, exchanges. But also to take part in the discussion of human rights, which are central to the search for universally acceptable criteria for decisions. At stake is the understanding and exercise of a justice that demonstrates the essential role of responsibility in the discussion of human rights and about their close correlation with duties, beginning with solidarity with those in greatest need. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the importance of “a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere licence. Nowadays we are witnessing a grave inconsistency. On the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted by public structures, while, on the other hand, elementary and basic rights remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world”. Among those rights, the Pope emeritus points to “lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care” (Caritas in Veritate, 43).

12. Another area calling for study is that of the new technologies described as “emergent” and “convergent.” These include information and communication technologies, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies and robotics. Relying on results obtained from physics, genetics and neuroscience, as well as on increasingly powerful computing capabilities, profound interventions on living organisms are now possible. Even the human body is subject to interventions capable of modifying not only its functions and capabilities, but also its ways of relating on personal and societal levels, with the result that it is increasingly exposed to market forces. There is a pressing need, then, to understand these epochal changes and new frontiers in order to determine how to place them at the service of the human person, while respecting and promoting the intrinsic dignity of all. This task is extremely demanding, given its complexity and the unpredictability of future developments; consequently, it requires even greater discernment than usual. We can define this discernment as “a sincere work of conscience, in its effort to know the possible good on the basis of which to engage responsibly in the correct exercise of practical reason” (Synod of Bishops on Young People, Final Document [27 October 2018], 109). This process of research and evaluation thus entails the workings of the moral conscience and, for the believer, is part of his or her relationship with the Lord Jesus, in the desire to put on the mind of Christ in our actions and choices (cf. Phil 2:5).

13. The kind of medicine, economy, technology and politics that develop within the modern city of man must also, and above all, remain subject to the judgment rendered by the peripheries of the earth. Indeed, the many extraordinary resources made available to human beings by scientific and technological research could overshadow the joy of fraternal sharing and the beauty of common undertakings, unless they find their meaning in advancing that joy and beauty. We should keep in mind that fraternity remains the unkept promise of modernity. The universal spirit of fraternity that grows by mutual trust – within modern civil society and between peoples and nations – appears much weakened. The strengthening of fraternity, generated in the human family by the worship of God in spirit and truth, is the new frontier of Christianity. Every detail of the life of the body and of the soul, in which the love and redemptive power of the new creation shine forth within us, leads to amazement before the miracle of a resurrection in the very process of occurring (cf. Col 3:1-2). May the Lord grant that we multiply these miracles! May the witness of Saint Francis of Assisi, who saw himself as the brother of every creature on earth and in heaven, inspire us by its perennial relevance. May the Lord prepare you for this new phase of your mission, your lamps filled with the oil of the Spirit to light your path and to guide your steps. How beautiful indeed are the feet of those who bring the joyful proclamation of God’s love for the life of all those who dwell upon our land (cf. Is 52: 7; Rom 10:15).

From the Vatican, 6 January 2019

FRANCIS

 

 


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Good politics is at the service of peace. Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the World Day of Peace. 01 January 2019

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE
FRANCIS
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
52nd WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2019

 

Good politics is at the service of peace

 

1. “Peace be to this house!”

In sending his disciples forth on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk 10:5-6).

Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.[1]The “house” of which Jesus speaks is every family, community, country and continent, in all their diversity and history. It is first and foremost each individual person, without distinction or discrimination. But it is also our “common home”: the world in which God has placed us and which we are called to care for and cultivate.

So let this be my greeting at the beginning of the New Year: “Peace be to this house!”

2. The challenge of good politics

Peace is like the hope which the poet Charles Péguy celebrated.[2] It is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence. We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.

Jesus tells us that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In the words of Pope Paul VI, “to take politics seriously at its different levels – local, regional, national and worldwide – is to affirm the duty of each individual to acknowledge the reality and value of the freedom offered him to work at one and the same time for the good of the city, the nation and all mankind”.[3]

Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.

3. Charity and human virtues: the basis of politics at the service of human rights and peace

Pope Benedict XVI noted that “every Christian is called to practise charity in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis… When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have… Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family”.[4] This is a programme on which all politicians, whatever their culture or religion, can agree, if they wish to work together for the good of the human family and to practise those human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity.

In this regard, it may be helpful to recall the “Beatitudes of the Politician”, proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, a faithful witness to the Gospel who died in 2002:

Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.

Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.

Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.

Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.

Blessed be the politician who works for unity.

Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.

Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.

Blessed be the politician who is without fear.[5]

Every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, is an opportunity to return to the original points of reference that inspire justice and law. One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.

4. Political vices

Sadly, together with its virtues, politics also has its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions. Clearly, these vices detract from the credibility of political life overall, as well as the authority, decisions and actions of those engaged in it. These vices, which undermine the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony. We think of corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.

5. Good politics promotes the participation of the young and trust in others

When the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals, the future is compromised and young people can be tempted to lose confidence, since they are relegated to the margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future. But when politics concretely fosters the talents of young people and their aspirations, peace grows in their outlook and on their faces. It becomes a confident assurance that says, “I trust you and with you I believe” that we can all work together for the common good. Politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and abilities of each individual. “What could be more beautiful than an outstretched hand? It was meant by God to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill (cf. Gen 4:1ff) or to inflict suffering, but to offer care and help in life. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hands too can become a means of dialogue”.[6]

Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home. Authentic political life, grounded in law and in frank and fair relations between individuals, experiences renewal whenever we are convinced that every woman, man and generation brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies. That kind of trust is never easy to achieve, because human relations are complex, especially in our own times, marked by a climate of mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers, or anxiety about one’s personal security. Sadly, it is also seen at the political level, in attitudes of rejection or forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need. Today more than ever, our societies need “artisans of peace” who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.

6. No to war and to the strategy of fear

A hundred years after the end of the First World War, as we remember the young people killed in those battles and the civilian populations torn apart, we are more conscious than ever of the terrible lesson taught by fratricidal wars: peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear. To threaten others is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity. This is why we state once more that an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace. Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace. Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.

Our thoughts turn in a particular way to all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights. One out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups. The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.

7. A great project of peace

In these days, we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in the wake of the Second World War. In this context, let us also remember the observation of Pope John XXIII: “Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others”.[7]

Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings. But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects:

– peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”;

– peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say;

– peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.

The politics of peace, conscious of and deeply concerned for every situation of human vulnerability, can always draw inspiration from the Magnificat, the hymn that Mary, the Mother of Christ the Saviour and Queen of Peace, sang in the name of all mankind: “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly; …for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever” (Lk 1:50-55).

From the Vatican, 8 December 2018

Francis


[1] Cf. Lk 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased”.

[2] Cf. Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu, Paris, 1986.

[3] Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (14 May 1971), 46.

[4] Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 7.

[5] Cf. Address at the “Civitas” Exhibition-Convention in Padua: “30 Giorni”, no. 5, 2002.

[6] BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Authorities of Benin, Cotonou, 19 November 2011.

[7] Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), ed. Carlen, 24.

 


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