Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Tuesday, 9 July 2024
Keeping our feet solidly on the ground but with great ideals
In an editorial published by "L’Osservatore Romano", the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication reflects on the highlights of Pope Francis’ speech at the closing session of the Italian Catholic Social Week in the northern Italian city of Trieste.
Pope Francis visits the city of Trieste at the conclusion of the Week of Social Doctrine

Pope Francis visits the city of Trieste at the conclusion of the Week of Social Doctrine

Paolo Ruffini/ :

There is a question underlying Pope Francis’ speech yesterday in Trieste, which concerns everyone and not just so-called professional politicians.

What is politics for us?  


And connected to this question there is another, or rather there are two more questions: What is democracy? And what is the role of every individual, and therefore also of Christians, of Catholics, in the crisis of our democracies?


These are not academic questions. On the contrary.  


They ask us to get out of that excessive abstraction in which we often take refuge when we reduce politics to a power game, to a mathematical calculation, or topography, or to occupy positions of command, and when we transform democracy into a cold handbook of rules that govern this game that too many - mistakenly - consider belonging to someone else.


The truth is that by pretending to be just spectators, rather than actors (i.e. possible protagonists of progress for the common good), by watching passively on the sidelines, we end up acting like Pontius Pilate: washing our hands ends up worsening both the crisis of politics and that of democracy, and, ultimately, our destiny.


Pope Francis' response is different: it is concrete and in times of crisis he does not speak with abstract schemes but challenges us to examine our personal and collective conscience, both as individuals and as a people.


What game are we playing?


If politics and democracy do not only concern some (the others: those who vote, those who govern, those who oppose, those who militate, those who take to the streets); if they concern each of us, our lives, our choices, and not just at the moment when we cast our ballot, if everything is interconnected, what game are we playing?


The Pope's questions are addressed to us and bring us back down to earth. They are concrete. Like charity, of which politics - as Francis repeats, citing his predecessors - is the highest form. They blow up the carefully constructed schemes of polarization. They adopt a paradigm that only the shortsightedness of our time does not consider political. It is the paradigm of love, which demands participation, which includes everything, and “does not settle for treating the symptoms but seeks to address the root causes. It is a form of charity that allows politics to rise to its responsibilities and move beyond polarizations,”


What place does charity - love for others - have in our political reasoning?


Charity – as the Pope underlines – is concrete. It's inclusive.


It knows us name by name. It calls upon us to assume personal responsibility on the path towards a more human development.


It involves us in the construction of an alternative to the moral atrophy of the throw-away dynamics.


It is the only true antidote to the cancer that corrodes politics and democracies, which feeds on hatred and indifference.


It is up to each one of us not to reduce politics, which we all need, to a sum of numbers, of percentages, to an “empty box” to be filled.


It is up to each one of us to restore hope, the prophecy of a future to be built together, all together, and the beauty of sharing projects and stories in the weaving of the common good.


Politics – the Pope told us – is “participation”. “It's taking care of everything.” It is thinking “of ourselves as a single people,” not as my clan, my family, my friends". “It's not populism. No, it's something else."


Participation is responsible, populism, on the other hand, cancels out responsibility, which is individual, in the indistinctness of the mass.


Think big, roll up your sleeves to do big things, together: this is the task of Catholics in politics.


Feet on the ground, but great ideals.


We are called to be idealists with a great sense of reality and limits, aware that we can change reality, step by step on a journey that is always ongoing. Without mistaking the way with a point of arrival and possession, as Father Primo Mazzolari used to say.


In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis writes that “An authentic faith always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”


Father Primo Mazzolari translated all this by inviting us to look up: not to the right or left, or to the centre, but high up. Starting with being new men instead of adventurers of the new. Men and women who are capable of freely taking on themselves and honouring a commitment rather than behaving like Pontius Pilate. People, who do not stand watching, on the sidelines, the fight for justice. Who do not transform passion into hatred, and justice into a summary settlement of scores; who do not deny the ends with the means, who don’t yield to the culture of hyperbole, do not preach magical solutions; do not renounce the rule of charity in politics. They are men and women who do not delude themselves into thinking that they can build heaven on earth, do not mistake politics for the momentary challenge between those who win and those who lose, but rather live politics as a path to which we are all called and see it as a call to always do better.


The words Aldo Moro said when he was a young university professor come back to our mind as a parameter: “Probably, despite everything, the historical evolution, of which we will have been the acting causes, will not satisfy our ideal needs; the wonderful promise, which seems contained in the intrinsic strength and beauty of those ideals, will not be kept. This means that men will always have to remain in a position of more or less acute pessimism when faced with the law and the State.


And their pain will never be fully comforted. But this dissatisfaction, this pain, is the same dissatisfaction of man with his life, too often narrower and more miserable than his ideal beauty would legitimately seem to suggest. It is the pain of the man who continually finds everything smaller than he would like, whose life is so different from the ideal he dreamed of.


It is a pain that does not subside, if not a little, when it is confessed to souls who know how to understand or have expressed it in art, or when the strength of faith or the beauty of nature dissolves that anxiety and restores peace. Perhaps man's destiny is not to fully realize justice but to perpetually hunger and thirst for justice. But it is always a great destiny."