I am very pleased to welcome you, the young members of the “Political Fraternity” of Chemin Neuf. When we met last year, you had asked me to pray for your participation in the Changemakers event in Budapest. There you experienced moments of encounter and learning, as well as activities, along with local groups. The way you participated in this event strikes me as a good method of putting into practice the genuine meaning of politics, especially for Christians. Politics is encounter, reflection, action.
Politics is, first and foremost, an art of encounter. Certainly, this encounter consists of being open to others and accepting their differences as part of a respectful dialogue. For Christians, however, there is more. Because the Gospel demands that we love our enemies (cf. Mt 5:44), we cannot rest content with superficial and formal dialogue, along the lines of the often hostile negotiations between political parties. Instead, we are called to see political encounters as fraternal encounters, especially with people who disagree with us. That means regarding our dialogue partner as a true brother or sister, a beloved son or daughter of God. The art of encounter, then, begins with changing the way we look at others, with showing them unconditional acceptance and respect. Without such a change of heart, politics often risks turning into a violent confrontation, where people try to impose their own ideas and pursue particular interests over the common good, contrary to the principle that “unity prevails over conflict” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 226-230).
From a Christian standpoint, politics is also reflection, that is, the devising of a common project. An eighteenth-century political leader, Edmund Burke, thus told the electors of Bristol that as a Member of Parliament he would not be limited to defending their particular interests, but sent in their name to pursue along with other members of Parliament the interest of the entire country, the general good. As Christians, we recognize that politics is practiced not only through encounter, but also through shared reflection in the pursuit of this general good, not simply through the clash of differing and often opposed interests. In a word, “the whole is greater than the part” (cf. ibid., 234-237). Our own compass for advancing this common project is the Gospel, which brings to the world a profoundly positive vision of humanity as loved by God.
Finally, politics is also action. I am pleased that your Fraternity is not satisfied to be merely a forum for discussion and exchange, but is also directing you to concrete forms of commitment. As Christians, we must always be realistic, confronting our ideas with hard reality, lest we build on sands that sooner or later end up shifting. Let us not forget that “realities are more important than ideas” (cf. ibid., 231-233). In this regard, I encourage your efforts on behalf of migrants and ecology. I have also learned that some of you have chosen to live together in a working-class quarter of Paris, in order to listen to the voices of the poor: that is a Christian way of engaging in political life! Don’t forget these things, that realities are more important than ideas: politics cannot be practiced with ideology. That the whole is greater than the part, and that unity prevails over conflict. Always seek unity and do not get lost in conflict.
Encounter, reflection, action: this is a political programme in the Christian sense. I believe that you are already doing this, especially in your Sunday evening meetings. From joining in prayer to the Father from whom all things proceed, from imitating Jesus Christ, and from listening attentively to the Holy Spirit, your concern for the common good gains a powerful interior incentive. For in this way, politics can be practiced as “the highest form of charity”, as it was defined by Pope Pius XI.
I would like to take up on something that our Brazilian friend said: he spoke about memory, hope and asombro (wonder). The Christian life is not possible without this asombro, without this wonder. Wonder is what make me feel that I am in Jesus, with Jesus. The wonder of seeing the grandeur of the Lord, of his person and his plan, to take the grandeur of the Beatitudes as a programme for our lives. And that other word: memory. Memory, hope and wonder. The past, the future, the present: there is no future without the present and there is no hope without wonder. Cultivate prayer with the Gospel in order to feel the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ.
My prayers are with you on this journey. I thank you for your attention and I give you my blessing. And please, do not forget to pray for me!
Now, all together in prayer, let us ask the Lord to bless us.
Lord Jesus, bless all of us who work close to you. Bless our vision, bless our hearts, bless our hands. Amen.
I welcome you, the members of the Chemin Neuf Politics Fraternity, and through you, I warmly greet the young people from different countries who, like you, benefit from the expertise and accompaniment of the Chemin Neuf community. I thank you for making this journey to Rome, despite the limitations of the pandemic.
With you I give thanks to the Lord for the work of his Spirit, which is manifested in your human and spiritual journey in the service of the common good and of the poor in particular, a journey you make by rejecting poverty and working for a more just and fraternal world. In fact, in the unbridled pursuit of possessions, careers, honours or power, the weak and the least are often ignored and rejected, or considered useless, indeed – and this is not there [in the text] – they are considered as waste material. This is why I hope that your commitment and your enthusiasm in the service of others, shaped by the power of the Gospel of Christ, will restore a taste for life and hope in the future to many people, especially many young people.
“The lay vocation is directed above all to charity within the family and to social and political charity. It is a concrete and faith-based commitment to the building of a new society. It involves living in the midst of society and the world in order to bring the Gospel everywhere, to work for the growth of peace, harmony, justice, human rights and mercy, and thus for the extension of God’s kingdom in this world” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, 168). It is precisely with this dynamic that you journey, with an ecumenical openness and a heart willing to welcome different cultures and traditions, in order to transform the face of our society.
Dear friends, I encourage you not to be afraid to walk the paths of fraternity and to build bridges between people, between peoples, in a world where so many walls are still being built out of fear of others. Through your initiatives, your projects and your activities, you make visible a Church that is poor with and for the poor, an outbound Church that is close to people in situations of suffering, vulnerability, marginalisation and exclusion. Indeed, “our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members” (Evangelii Gaudium, 186).
With the young people of your societies, today more than ever, you face challenges in which the health of our common home is at stake. It is truly an ecological conversion that recognises the eminent dignity of each person, their own worth, their creativity and their capacity to seek and promote the common good. What we are currently experiencing with the pandemic teaches us in a tangible way that we are all in the same boat and that we can only overcome difficulties if we agree to work together. And you are spending a few days here in Rome precisely to reflect on a particular aspect of life in our common home: that of the presence of migrants and their reception in today’s Europe. As you well know, “When we talk about migrants and displaced persons, all too often we stop at statistics. But it is not about statistics, it is about real people! If we encounter them, we will get to know more about them. And knowing their stories, we will be able to understand them” (Message for the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 15 May 2020).
Dear friends, I invite you to remain firm in your convictions and in your faith. Never forget that Christ is alive and that he calls you to walk courageously after him. With him, be that flame that revives hope in the hearts of so many young people who are discouraged, sad and without prospects. May you generate bonds of friendship, of fraternal sharing, for a better world. The Lord counts on your boldness, your courage and your enthusiasm.
I entrust each one of you and your families, as well as the members of your fraternity and all the young people you meet to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and to the protection of Saint Ignatius. I bless you from my heart. And please do not forget to pray for me. And may the Lord bless each and every one of you. Amen.