By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis addressed Romania’s authorities, members of civil society, and diplomatic corps on Friday morning, shortly after arriving in the capital, Bucharest.
He expressed his joy for the opportunity to visit the ţara frumoasă, or beautiful land, of Romania, 20 years after Pope St. John Paul II.
Challenges and achievements since fall of communism
Thirty years have passed since the nation was liberated from a repressive communist regime, which led to economic stagnation and isolation from other European countries.
Romania, said Pope Francis, has made “great strides” in “building a sound democracy through the plurality of its political and social forces and their reciprocal dialogue, through the fundamental recognition of religious freedom and through the country’s full participation on the greater international stage.”
He said this new era has brought both achievements and challenges, including emigration which has seen millions of people leave their homeland in search of work.
“I think too of the depopulation of many villages, which have lost many of their inhabitants, the effects of this on the quality of life in those areas, and the weakening of the profound cultural and spiritual roots that have sustained you in times of trial,” he said.
The Pope paid homage to these emigrants who have enriched their host countries through their cultural identity and industriousness.
Integrate the poor in society
Pope Francis urged the nation’s civil leaders to set aside their differences for the sake of a greater project, and to promote the common good of all Romanians.
An inclusive society, he noted, allows every person to share their gifts, ideas, creativity, and labor.
“In this way, all become protagonists of the common good, where the weak, the poor and the least are no longer seen as undesirables that keep the ‘machine’ from functioning, but as citizens and brothers and sisters to be fully incorporated into the life of society.”
He said that how the poor are treated is “the best indicator of the actual goodness of the social model that one is attempting to build.”
Catholic Church helps build Romania’s future
The Pope said Christian Churches can help Romania to put the dignity of the person at the center of political and civil life, as they seek to be “a credible reflection of God’s presence”.
He said the Catholic Church wishes to help build up Romanian society.
“She desires to be a sign of harmony in the hope of unity and to be at the service of human dignity and the common good.”
The Catholic Church, he said, also aims to assist in building up the “civil and spiritual life in your beautiful land of Romania.”