"So many people in the world, so many, millions, who do not have the right to eat, do not have the right to education, do not have the right to work: they are the new slaves, they are those who are on the peripheries, who are exploited by everyone. Even today there is slavery: let us think about this a little. We deny these people human dignity."
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Men and women are equal", equally sons and daughters of God "in Christ". "They have the same dignity." It must be reaffirmed because, even today, we hear "expressions of contempt for women," and still "there is slavery for women." The passage from the Letter to the Galatians on the common filial in God gave Pope Francis the opportunity to strongly affirm the equal dignity of men and women and among all human beings.
Speaking to the 8,000 people present in the Paul VI Hall for the general audience and continuing the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Letters of St Paul, Francis, offhand, said, "How often do we hear expressions that despise women! How often have we heard, 'But, no, don't do anything, [these are] things of women.' But look that man and woman have the same dignity, and there is in history, even today, a slavery of women: women do not have the same opportunities as men. We must read what Paul says: we are equal in Christ Jesus."
"The Apostle - Francis stressed audaciously confirms that the identity received with baptism is so new that it prevails over the differences that exist on the ethnic-religious level: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” (Gal 3:28). We often read these expressions way too quickly, without grasping the revolutionary value they possess. For Paul, to write to the Galatians that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” was equivalent to an authentic subversion in the ethnic religious sphere. By the fact of belonging to a chosen people, the Jew was privileged over the pagan (cf. Rom 2:17-20). Paul himself affirms this (cf. Rom 9:4-5). It is not surprising, therefore, that this new teaching by the Apostle could sound heretical. Even the second set of equalities, between those who were “free” and those who were “slaves”, introduced a shocking perspective. The distinction between slaves and free citizens was vital in ancient society. By law, free citizens enjoyed all rights, while not even the human dignity of slaves was recognized. Thus, finally, equality in Christ overcomes the social differences between the two sexes, establishing an equality between man and woman which was revolutionary at the time and which needs to be reaffirmed even today. As we can see, Paul confirms the profound unity that exists between all the baptized, in whatever condition they are bound to, because every one of them is a new creature in Christ. Every distinction becomes secondary to the dignity of being children of God, who, through his love, creates a real and substantial equality."
"This - he added - also happens today: so many people in the world, so many, millions, who do not have the right to eat, do not have the right to education, do not have the right to work: they are the new slaves, they are those who are on the peripheries, who are exploited by everyone. Even today there is slavery: let us think about this a little. We deny these people human dignity."
"As we can see," he reiterated, "Paul affirms the profound unity that exists among all the baptized, whatever condition they belong to, because each of them, in Christ, is a new creature. Every distinction becomes secondary with respect to the dignity of being children of God, who through his love achieves true and substantial equality. We are all sons and daughters of God. We are equal."
"We are, therefore, called in a more positive way to live a new life that roots its foundational expression in being children of God. It is decisive even for all of us today to rediscover the beauty of being children of God, brothers and sisters among ourselves, because we have been united in Christ. The differences and contrasts that separation creates should not exist among believers in Christ. Rather, our vocation is that of making concrete and evident the call to unity of the entire human race (cf Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Cost. Lumen gentium, 1). Everything that exacerbates the differences between people, often causing discrimination – all of this, before God, no longer has any meaning, thanks to the salvation effected in Christ. What is important is that faith that operates according to the path of unity indicated by the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is that of journeying decisively on along this path. In equality, which was made by Jesus."
"Paul emphasises that faith in Jesus Christ has allowed us to truly become children of God and his heirs. We Christians often take for granted this reality of being God’s children. Instead, it is good to remember with gratitude the moment in which we became such, the moment of our baptism, so as to live the great gift we received with greater awareness." With reference to baptism, Francis returned to invite people to know the date of their baptism and celebrate it.
After the speech, in greetings addressed to those present, Francis wished the students well. "My thoughts - he said to the English - go in a special way to those who will be resuming school in the coming weeks. Dear young people, may this academic year be for all of you an occasion of cultural growth and a deepening of the bonds of friendship. On you and on your families I invoke the wisdom and joy of Christ".
And to the Arabs he added: "You children, young people, students and teachers who are returning to school in these days, may the Lord help you to preserve faith and cultivate science, to become protagonists of a better future, in which humanity can enjoy peace, brotherhood and tranquillity".
To the Poles, finally, he spoke of the upcoming beatification of Cardinal Stephen Wyszyński and Mother Elizabeth Rosa Czacka. "May the spiritual testament of the Primate of the Millennium: 'I entrust everything to Mary,' and the confidence of Mother Elizabeth Rose in the Cross of Christ always be the strength of your nation," he said. On Cardinal Wyszyński St. John Paul II uttered the historic words: 'On the See of Peter there would not be this Polish Pope, if there had not been your faith, which did not bend before prison and suffering, your heroic hope, your trust to the end in the Mother of the Church.' God bless Poland. May your great saints and blesseds sustain you."