In his homily during the Mass he celebrated in Santa Marta this morning, Francis spoke about Italy’s recent "government crisis". "Who among us has prayed for their rulers? Who among us has prayed for parliamentarians? So that they may agree and take their country forward.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated his first Mass in Casa Santa Marta this morning after the summer break. In his address, the Holy Father commented St Paul’s letter to Timothy (1 Tm 2:1-8).
For the pontiff, politics is not a dirty word, but like all other professions, it can be sullied. Hence, the people of God must pray for their rulers "that they can come together and take their country forward". However, it would seem that "the patriotic spirit does not touch praying". By the same token, those who govern should pray for their people.
Francis noted that Saint Paul urged "all the people of God" to pray, in a "universal request". “[R]equests, supplications, prayers and thanksgivings” should be done without anger and controversy for everyone. The same goes for rulers and those in power, that they may lead a calm, peaceful and dignified life, one dedicated to God.
“Paul stressed the environment around believers, namely praying. He focused here on intercessory praying: ‘Everyone should pray, for all, so that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life, in dignity and devotion to God.’ Praying helps make this possible. However, allow me to stress something: [This is true] ‘for everyone, for kings and all in authority’. He [Paul] is thus talking about praying for rulers, politicians, and the people in charge of political institutions, countries, and regions.”
Rulers may be flattered by their favourites or may be insulted, Francis noted. Some politicians but also priests and bishops have been insulted, and "some deserve it", but now this has become "like a habit", a "rosary of insults and swear words, of rejections". Yet “rulers are responsible for governing a country", and we "leave them alone, without asking God to bless them". What is more, “I am sure” that, not only do we fail pray for rulers, but it appears that insults are our prayers for them. This is how, in our life, we relate to those in power. But Saint Paul is “clear” in asking us to pray for each of them “that they may lead a quiet, tranquil and dignified life among their people.”
Speaking about Italy’s recent government crisis, the Pope asked: “Who among us has prayed for people in government? “Who among us has prayed for parliamentarians, that they might reach an agreement and take the country forward? It appears that the spirit of patriotism doesn’t touch praying: Yes, to criticism, hate, fighting; and that’s it. ‘It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.’ Discussions must happen, and this is the role of parliament. Discussion must occur, but without crushing others. Rather, each must pray for others, for those who have a different opinion than ours.”
With respect to those who think that this or that politician is "too communist" or "corrupt", the Pope, quoting today's Gospel of Luke, urges prayers rather than political discussions. To those who say that "politics is dirty", he cites Pope Paul VI who believed that it was “the highest form of charity”.
Politics “may be dirty, just like any profession can be dirty . . . We are the ones who sully something but it is not so by nature. I believe that we must convert our hearts and pray for politicians of all stripes, all of them! Pray for people in government. This is what Paul called us to do.
“As I listened to the Word of God, I thought about this beautiful event in the Gospel – the person in authority who prays for one of his underlings; the centurion who prays for his servant. Even people in government must pray for their people, and this man prayed for his servant, who may have been a domestic. ‘But no, he is my servant. I am responsible for him.’
“People in government are responsible for the life of their country. It is good to think that, if people pray for [their] leaders, people in government will be able to pray for their people, just like this centurion who prayed for his servant.”