The 50th Annual Italian Catholic Social Week The 50th Annual Italian Catholic Social Week 

Pope: Democracy is working together to solve problems of all

On the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Trieste on Sunday, July 7, for the conclusion of the 50th Italian Catholic Social Week, the newspaper “Il Piccolo” has made available a previously unpublished text by Pope Francis, an introduction to an anthology of papal speeches and messages entitled “At the Heart of Democracy.”

Pope Francis

I am delighted to offer these words to introduce this text, which the newspaper Il Piccolo and Libreria Editrice Vaticana are offering to readers in conjunction with my visit to Trieste on the occasion of the Social Weeks.

My presence in Trieste, a city with a strong central European flavor because of the coexistence of different cultures, religions, and ethnic groups, takes place in conjunction with the event that the Italian Bishops’ Conference have organized in this city, the Italian Catholic Social Week, dedicated this year to the theme,” “At the Heart of Democracy: Participation throughout history and into the future.”

Democracy, we know well, is a term that originated in ancient Greece to indicate the power exercised by the people through their representatives. A form of government that, while it has spread globally in recent decades, seems to be suffering the consequences of a dangerous disease, that of “democratic skepticism.” The difficulty of democracies in taking on the complexities of the present time – think of the issues related to unemployment or the overwhelming technocratic paradigm – sometimes seems to yield to the allure of populism. Democracy has inherent in it a great and unquestionable value: that of being “together,” of the fact that the exercise of government takes place within the framework of a community that freely and secularly confronts each other in the art of the common good, which is nothing more than a different name for what we call politics.

“Together” is synonymous with “participation.” Don Lorenzo Milani and his companions already emphasized this in the masterful “Letter to a Teacher”: “I have learned that the problems of others are the same as mine. To come out of them together is politics. To come out alone is stinginess.” Yes, the problems before us are everyone’s and they affect everyone. The democratic way is to discuss them together and know that only together can such problems find a solution. Because in a community such as the human community, one does not save oneself. Nor does the axiom of mors tua vita mea [“your death is my life”, - ed.] apply. On the contrary. Even microbiology suggests to us that the human is structurally open to the dimension of otherness and the encounter with a “you” who stands before us. Giuseppe Toniolo himself, the inspirer and founder of the Social Week, was a scholar of economics who understood very well the limits of homo oeconomicus, that is, of that anthropological vision based on “materialistic utilitarianism,” as he called it, which atomizes the person, amputating his relational dimension.

Here, thinking today about what the “heart” of democracy means, I want to say: Together is better because alone is worse. Together is good because alone is sad. Together means that one plus one does not make two, but three, because participation and cooperation create what economists call added value, that is, that positive and almost concrete sense of solidarity, which comes from sharing and advancing, for example in the public arena, issues on which to find convergence.

After all, it is in the word “participate” that we find the authentic sense of what democracy is, of what it means to go to the heart of a democratic system. In a statist or dirigiste regime, no one participates; everyone watches, passive. Democracy, on the other hand, demands participation, demands putting in one’s own effort, risking confrontation, bringing one’s own ideals, one’s own reasons, into the question. Taking risks. But risk is the fertile soil in which freedom germinates. While instead, standing at the window, watching idly what is happening around us, is not only ethically unacceptable but also, even from a selfish perspective, neither wise nor convenient.

There are so many social issues on which we are called to engage democratically: let us think of an intelligent and creative reception of migrant, which cooperates and integrates; a phenomenon that Trieste knows well as it is close to the so-called Balkan route; let us think about the demographic winter, which now pervasively affects all of Italy, and some regions in particular; let us think about the choice of authentic policies for peace, which put the art of negotiation and not the choice of rearmament in first place. In short: let us consider the caring for others that Jesus continually points us to in the Gospel as the authentic attitude in being people.

From Trieste, a city overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, a melting pot of different cultures, religions, and peoples; a metaphor for that human brotherhood to which we aspire in these times overshadowed by war, may a more convinced commitment to a fully participatory democratic life aimed at the true common good spring forth.

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05 July 2024, 21:04