By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis turned his attention on Thursday to the theme of social friendship, in a video message released to coincide with a conference held in Argentina.
The local Church was commemorating its 23rd Day of Social and Pastoral Care, held under the theme “Toward a culture of encounter, a nation for all: Fraternity and social friendship”.
The annual recurrence began in 1998 in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires when Pope Francis—then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio—headed up the Archdiocese.
Social friendship vs. Third World War
In his video message for its 23rd iteration, the Pope highlighted the importance of social friendship.
He said sin and force-of-habit drive us toward enmity and war, and we forget that “our vocation is one of harmony, fraternity, and being brothers and sisters: social friendship.”
“Take a look at the direction of the world, war everywhere. We are experiencing a Third World War fought piecemeal. This is not social friendship,” he said.
Pope Francis lamented how dialogue has been shoved aside in favor of shouting and responses which drown out other people’s explanations.
Social friendship, he said, cannot take place without a desire to listen to the other person. “And to listen, my heart must first be filled with the conviction that the other person has something worth telling me.”
Under threat from ideology and passions
Pope Francis went on to consider two natural enemies to social friendship.
The first—ideologies—seeks to take over everything and command loyalty. “Ideologies succeed in disarming the concreteness of human nature,” he noted.
Passions are the second great enemy to social friendship, which he called a “steam roller that carries on destroying instead of dialoguing.
“Passions many times seek to eliminate the other person, prohibiting them from occupying their rightful place,” he said.
The Pope admitted that there are “pockets of good social friendship in the world”, but said that social enmity is much more prevalent.
Signs abound of social enmity
Besides war, he added, other signs of social enmity abound on certain margins of society.
These include children shut off from education, people who face hunger, those without healthcare services, people without potable running water, and those who cannot afford basic necessities.
Pope Francis said these signs prove that social friendship does not exist in today’s world.
“If there is social friendship, then war and any sort of unfulfilled need should not exist, including a poorly-functioning education system,” he said. “Everything must be full.”
Pastoral care with feet on the ground
Finally, the Pope urged Church leaders in Argentina to throw themselves fully into the work of pastoral care.
“Do not reflect in abstract terms,” he concluded. “Carry out your reflections with your feet on the ground, based on concrete data.”