Pope Francis, building bridges in the name of fraternity
By Alessandro Gisotti
Pontiff: 'Builder of bridges.' If there is one feature that has become increasingly clear in the course of nearly nine years of Pope Francis’ pontificate, it is precisely the tireless commitment of the Successor of Peter to building bridges in order to unite where there is division, to cross those visible and sometimes invisible barriers of separation that prevent encounter.
Bridges between peoples and cultures, bridges between religious and political leaders that the Pope has worked to build with an intensity and a sense of urgency that has increased the more he has seen walls erected which, after the end of the Cold War and the division of the world into two blocs, were thought — perhaps a little too optimistically — to be relegated to the history books.
Today, this passionate and unbiased commitment is almost unanimously recognised by the international community, as demonstrated by requests for the mediation and intervention of the Pope and the Holy See in so many crises of our time.
Dialogue and cooperation
Even in Monday's speech to the Diplomatic Corps (a sort of Urbi et Orbi address on the state of health of the planet), Pope Francis reiterated that dialogue and cooperation between peoples are stages along a path we cannot avoid if we really want to prepare a future of hope for future generations.
“We should be unafraid,” he said in a key passage of his speech, “to make room for peace in our lives by cultivating dialogue and fraternity among one another.”
A space that needs an integral and not fragmented vision — as dramatically demonstrated by the pandemic, another central theme in the audience with the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. In the eyes of the Church — “expert in humanity,” as Paul VI emphasises in Populorum Progressio — peace and development, the environment, and rights are interconnected. Everything fits together. The Church has humanity at heart and nothing else because, in the words of John Paul II, “man is the way of the Church.”
Creativity of love
It is a love for humanity — especially for women and men who are wounded, discarded, humiliated — to which Pope Francis bears witness with words and gestures, following in the footsteps of his predecessors and developing their Magisterium with that “creativity of love” that is a task ideally entrusted to each and every one of us.
Even in 2021, despite the immense difficulties generated by the pandemic, Pope Francis has continued to erect arches and establish pillars, to lay stones to reinforce the road. He is not only initiating processes (to borrow a formula dear to him), but also building bridges. Certainly, not all of them can be completed; but this is no reason to give up.
As Pope Francis reassures us, “blessed are the builders of peace,” even if the fruits of their work will be harvested by others, and in times that we cannot now foresee.
Journey toward fraternity
The “impossible” journey to Iraq is perhaps the most extraordinary example of this effort by the Pope, and not only of the past year. It was a trip that many had advised against, but which proved to be a powerful, prophetic message in favour of peace and fraternity.
This last — “fraternity” — for its part has become almost on the other hand, is almost the second name on the “identity card” of Pope Francis’ pontificate.
The Pope of Fratelli tutti — who in Mosul was able to affirm that “Fraternity is more durable than fratricide” — reminds us that on that bridge, called humanity, we must all take steps in order to encounter one another. And we must do so above all in order to meet those who are furthest away —because however distant they may be from us, they are still our brothers.