La Paz (AsiaNews) - The common good, which is, "the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment" requires a politics that is not dominated by financial speculation and which does not rely exclusively on a utilitarian and technocratic paradigm of maximum production. It requires a politics in which human rights are respected and the role of culture and the specific role of religions are promoted.
This was Pope Francis message in his first meetings in Bolivia, on the second leg of his trip to Latin America. He arrived in the land-locked nation yesterday afternoon, greeted by President Evo Morales and more than half a million people.
Bolivia, in the words of Francis on his arrival, “is making important steps towards including broad sectors in the country’s economic, social and political life". He said the nation could offer a "new cultural synthesis" one that could be, because "in this land whose history has been marred by exploitation, greed and so many forms of selfishness and sectarianism, now is the time for integration”. It is also a nation of contrasts, as evidenced by the Crucifix on a hammer and sickle (pictured), the President’s gift from the president to the Pope.
The Holy Father praised not only the beauty of the country, but also its commitment to the integration of cultures. In the welcoming ceremony he was gifted with a 'chumpa', the traditional woolen pouch used to carry coca leaves, and a white woolen poncho.
Thus, at the airport, responding to President Morales who called him "the Pope of the poor", he said he was "happy to be here, in this country of singular beauty, blessed by God in its various regions: its altiplano and valleys, its Amazon region, its deserts and the incomparable lakes.". "But above all, Bolivia is a land blessed in its people. It is home to a great cultural and ethnic variety, which is at once a great source of enrichment and a constant summons to mutual respect and dialogue. There are the ancient aboriginal peoples and the more recent native peoples.". " n this land and people the proclamation of the Gospel took deep root, and through the years it has continued to shed its light upon society, contributing to the development of the nation and shaping its culture. As a guest and a pilgrim, I have come to confirm the faith of those who believe in the Risen Christ, so that, during our pilgrimage on earth, we believers may be witnesses of his love, leaven for a better world and co-operators in the building of a more just and fraternal society”.
“Bolivia is making important steps towards including broad sectors in the country’s economic, social and political life. Your constitution recognizes the rights of individuals, minorities and the natural environment, and provides for institutions to promote them. To achieve these goals a spirit of civic cooperation and dialogue is required, as well as the participation of individuals and social groups in issues of interest to everyone. The integral advancement of a nation demands an ever greater appreciation of values by individuals and their growing convergence with regard to common ideals to which all can work together, no one being excluded or overlooked. A growth which is merely material will always run the risk of creating new divisions, of the wealth of some being built on the poverty of others. Hence, in addition to institutional transparency, social unity requires efforts to promote the education of citizens.
In days to come, I would like to encourage the vocation of Christ’s disciples to share the joy of the Gospel, to be salt for the earth and light to the world. The voice of the bishops, which must be prophetic, speaks to society in the name of the Church, our Mother, from her preferential, evangelical option for the poor. Fraternal charity, the living expression of the new commandment of Jesus, is expressed in programs, works and institutions which work for the integral development of the person, as well as for the care and protection of those who are most vulnerable. We cannot believe in God the Father without seeing a brother or sister in every person, and we cannot follow Jesus without giving our lives for those for whom he died on the cross”.
These words gave further significance to Pope Francis’ visit following the Welcoming Ceremony to the site of the assassination of Father Luis Espinal, a Jesuit priest murdered by death squads on March 21, 1980. Father Espinal, the Pope said, "our brother, victim of interests that did not want the struggle for freedom. Father Espinal preached the Gospel and this Gospel was disturbing and this is why he was assassinated. " Father Espinal, he continued, "preached the Gospel, the Gospel that brings freedom, that makes us free. Like every child of God, Jesus gives us this freedom and he preached this Gospel. "
In the afternoon, a courtesy visit to President Morales and then the meeting, in the cathedral, with the civil authorities, with Morales also present, as well as personalities from the world of culture and the voluntary sector and the diplomatic corps.
Francis spoke to them of the common good, saying “I am certain that you seek what is beautiful, true and good in your service of the common good. May your efforts contribute to the growth of greater respect for the human person, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development, and social peace, namely, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice (cf. Laudato Si’, 157).
“The natural environment is closely related to the social, political and economic environment. It is urgent for all of us to lay the foundations of an integral ecology, one capable of respecting all these human dimensions in resolving the grave social and environmental issues of our time. Otherwise, the glaciers of those mountains will continue to recede, and our sense of gratitude and responsibility with regard to these gifts, our concern for the world we want to leave to future generations, for its meaning and values, will melt just like those glaciers (cf. Laudato Si’ 159-160).
Because everything is related, we need one another. If politics is dominated by financial speculation, or if the economy is ruled solely by a technocratic and utilitarian paradigm concerned with maximum production, we will not grasp, much less resolve, the great problems of humanity. Cultural life has an important role to play in this regard, for it has to do not only with the development of the mind through the sciences and the creation of beauty through the arts, but also esteem for the local traditions of a people, which are so expressive of the milieu in which they arose and to which they give meaning. There is also need for an ethical and moral education which can cultivate solidarity and shared responsibility between individuals. We should acknowledge the specific role of the religions in the development of culture and the benefits which can they can bring to society. Christians in particular, as disciples of the Good News, are bearers of a message of salvation which has the ability to ennoble and to inspire great ideals. In this way it leads to ways of acting which transcend individual interest, readiness to make sacrifices for the sake of others, sobriety and other virtues which develop in us the ability to live as one”.
“It is so easy for us to become accustomed to the atmosphere of inequality all around us, with the result that we take it for granted. Without even being conscious of it, we confuse the “common good” with “prosperity”, especially when we are the ones who enjoy that prosperity. Prosperity understood only in terms of material wealth has a tendency to become selfish, to defend private interests, to be unconcerned about others, and to give free rein to consumerism. Understood in this way, prosperity, instead of helping, breeds conflict and social disintegration; as it becomes more prevalent, it opens the door to the evil of corruption, which brings so much discouragement and damage in its wake. The common good, on the other hand, is much more than the sum of individual interests. It moves from “what is best for me” to “what is best for everyone”. It embraces everything which brings a people together: common purpose, shared values, ideas which help us to look beyond our limited individual horizons.
Different social groups have a responsibility to work for unity and the development of society. Freedom is always the best environment for thinkers, civic associations and the communications media to carry out their activities with passion and creativity in service of the common good. Christians too, are called to be a leaven within society, to bring it their message. The light of Christ’s Gospel is not the property of the Church; the Church is at the service of the Gospel, so that it can reach the ends of the earth. Faith is a light which does not blind or confuse, but one which illuminates and respectfully guides the consciences and history of every person and society. Christianity has played an important role in shaping the identity of the Bolivian people. Religious freedom – a phrase we often encounter in civil discourse – also reminds us that faith cannot be restricted to a purely subjective experience. It also challenges us to help foster the growth of spirituality and Christian commitment in social projects.
Among the various social groups, I would like to mention in particular the family, which is everywhere threatened by domestic violence, alcoholism, sexism, drug addiction, unemployment, urban unrest, the abandonment of the elderly, and children left to the streets. These problems often meet with pseudo-solutions which show the clear effects of an ideological colonization... So many social problems are quietly resolved in the family; the failure to assist families would leave those who are most vulnerable without protection.
A nation which seeks the common good cannot be closed in on itself; societies are strengthened by networks of relationships. The current problem of immigration makes this clear. These days it is essential to improve diplomatic relations between the countries of the region, in order to avoid conflicts between sister peoples and to advance frank and open dialogue about their problems. Instead of raising walls, we need to be building bridges. All these issues, thorny as they may be, can find solutions which are shared, reasonable, equitable and lasting. And in any event, they should never be a cause for aggressiveness, resentment or enmity; these only worsen situations and stand in the way of their resolution”.
“How beautiful are those cities which overcome paralyzing mistrust, integrate those who are different and make this very integration a new factor of development! How attractive it is when those cities are full of spaces which connect, relate and favor the recognition of others!” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 210). Bolivia in its process of integration and its search for unity, is called to be an example of such “multifaceted and inviting harmony” (ibid., 117)