Pope to French public servants: 'Always care for the disadvantaged in society'
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis on Friday met with a delegation of parliamentarians and mayors from the French Diocese of Cambrai, accompanied by Archbishop Vincent Dollman of Cambrai.
In his address, the Pope applauded the initiative of the visit to Rome, which they have been able to hold in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation between the civil and religious authorities of northern France, for the good of all.
Economic, social, cultural challenges
Speaking about their region, the Pope noted that it was once rich in coal mines, a strong metallurgical industry and renowned textile factories, which were developed during the industrial revolution of the late 19th century. However, the region has suffered setbacks with the closure of the mines and factories, and the economic crisis also brings further impoverishment of the population in these regions.
The Pope further noted that in addition to this economic challenge, the public administrators are also concerned for the social and cultural dimensions of their region. He urged public servants to be aware that “man does not feed only on bread, but also on the pride in their roots that culture brings out, thus helping to remind everyone of their dignity.”
Prioritizing needs of constituents
Pope Francis highlighted that it is in the areas of social and cultural action that the public administrators can "find" themselves, whatever their political affiliation.
He recommended that “by prioritizing the essential needs of your constituents, too often neglected in favor of fashionable arguments that have less to do with their daily lives,” public servants can “demonstrate a willingness to be of service to those who elected [them] and placed their trust in [them]."
Welcoming migrants, people with disabilities
Pope Francis went on to propose two words to the public administrators to encourage their work in the vast social field: welcome and care.
He stressed the importance of welcoming the most disadvantaged, including migrants, people with disabilities, saying that they need more facilities to facilitate their lives, those of their loved ones, and above all, as a way to demonstrate the respect that is due to them.
He urged that these inclusion provisions should enable many of them to find jobs as it is necessary, now more than ever before, to continue to set access to work as a priority goal.
Care for the elderly, people at the end of their lives
Regarding care, the Pope encouraged particular attention to be given to the elderly in nursing homes and to people at the end of their lives who must be accompanied by palliative care.
The Pope expressed hope that on such essential issues, the debate can be “conducted in truth to accompany life to its natural end.”
Pope Francis then upheld the cultural sphere as an important factor in unity, “insofar as it presents itself as the fruit of a common past, of a history lived in lands that are yours, that you love and where the Church has never been absent.”
Indeed, the Pope noted, “the events of the past have contributed to history and literature, as well as to the political and economic prospects of the entire country.”
He thus reminded the public administrators that it is up to them to enhance their region in order to transmit its legacy to future generations.
Working for the integral development of all
Concluding his address, the Pope expressed joy in seeing how the public servants are interested in the Church’s message on certain issues and their awareness of the role they must play through their commitment to the service of their constituents.
He reassured them of the Church’s help with the integral development of the most abandoned in society “by virtue of her faith in Christ who became poor.” Together with you, the Pope said, the Church “seeks to reach out to migrants, the elderly and the sick, in other words, all those who are ‘left behind,’ whose greatest poverty is undoubtedly exclusion and the loneliness that comes with it.”
Finally, Pope Francis blessed the public administrators and representatives, asking God to inspire their projects and initiatives for the common good of their region, and to assist them in their implementation.