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Cardinal Parolin during his intervention in Madrid Cardinal Parolin during his intervention in Madrid 

Cardinal Parolin: 'Culture of encounter necessary to overcome the current crisis'

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, speaks at an event in Spain promoted by the capital's archdiocese and focuses on the political responsibility of Catholics. The Cardinal, recalling the challenge of the pandemic, invites people to always look at the person, orienting decisions to the common good.

By L'Osservatore Romano

It is clear that the pandemic, "contagions, victims, treatments and vaccines are not local problems", but ones that concern "the whole world and all relations between peoples". Diplomatic action is therefore "necessary to ask local institutions or national parliaments and governments to establish common strategies and protocols, and to propel agreements between States". This was stated by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, in his opening speech at the II International Meeting of Catholics with Political Responsibilities. The meeting is being held in Madrid from Friday 3 to Sunday 5, September.

Promoted by the archdiocese of the Spanish capital and the Academia Latinoamericana de Líderes Católicos and with the collaboration of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the event is an opportunity to reflect on the theme "A culture of encounter in political life at the service of our peoples".

Cardinal Parolin pointed out that the current situation - specifically dedicated to the "Culture of encounter and social friendship in a world in crisis" - offers an opportunity to reflect on how we can work to contribute towards the construction of the common good. An objective, but perhaps it would be better to say "a duty for those who have responsibilities" which today is synthesised in the need "to emerge from a deep crisis,, which requires above all the strengthening of social balances, economies, the structure of countries and the capacity of governments". The cardinal stressed the need for "a well-founded anthropological dimension in political action and in the action of politicians. This means one which places the person at the centre. He also called for an idea of justice that is recognised as a social regulator", and a coherent strategy of action that, "from the local or national political community, is capable of acting as far as the international dimension". This, he explained, means considering "the culture of encounter and social friendship in their true meaning and action not as mere declarations, but as fundamental principles, guiding criteria and instruments of action". Such a combination, said the Secretary of State, allows the politician to base his service "not on the basis of opposition, but to be oriented towards the common good and to use the method of dialogue, encounter and reconciliation".

It should not be forgotten, the cardinal added, that "in the life of a country, in the interpersonal relations that develop within it, this configuration can turn into an uncontrolled reaction when overall visions and common goals are fragmented by attitudes and actions without justice". The question, therefore, is how to prevent conflicts at all levels, "ongoing oppositions, increasingly weak relationships, to extreme realities such as poverty, war, violation of fundamental rights, exclusion and marginalisation".

In recent times, such situations "have significantly altered social life, to the point of relativising or even eliminating principles, rules and structures that constitute points of reference for the governance and functioning of our States, as well as influencing the actions of the international community itself". Faced with these dynamics, which "condition projects and responses to the crisis", it is appropriate to "promote orderly coexistence among human beings, so that no one is left alone or abandoned". Even if, Cardinal Parolin admitted, this quest is not without difficulties," given the emergence of continuous tensions or attempts to divide the social fabric on the basis of its heritage, its possibilities or its usefulness".

Certainly, the cardinal noted, "looking at the global or, more technically, interdependent dimension that characterises contemporary life", it is clear how much it "involves a plurality of participants whose variegated image is no longer limited to traditional configurations" but concerns everyone. And so the politician must know how to "direct his or her attention towards the so-called global decisions which, in the face of the current crisis, are presented as a means of guaranteeing the stability of the social order", even if "the will and behaviour of individuals or groups often tend to limit their scope".

Responses to the crisis, in other words, "are configured on a broader scale and with a medium- and long-term vision, and are not reduced to decisions dictated by necessity or imposed by mechanisms whose validity and effects are based on the resolution of emergencies rather than continuity". If the actions taken or the programmes drawn up by governments and legislators are not "the result of a good, effective and shared policy, they remain partial or largely exclusive". It is not simply a matter of "redirecting spending resources towards development programmes" that, in an organic and continuous manner, "can guarantee the full realisation of persons and peoples, their growth and the fulfilment of the aspirations that arise from their dignity and are part of their identity". The fight against poverty, 'overcoming pandemics, building dynamic institutions are challenges that do not need answers, but need to be governed, because they concern the human family as a whole and its future'.

This requires that the exercise of authority "does not coincide with a personal, partisan or national vision", but rather "with an organised system of people and shared and possible ideas", capable of "ensuring the global common good, the eradication of hunger and misery, and the certain defence of elementary human rights", in a dimension that transcends borders, "not only of territory but above all of the heart".

Those who are confronted daily with the life of societies and with "the functioning of institutions and social conflicts", and are therefore called "to respond to increasingly varied and complex challenges", must be aware that "social friendship and the culture of encounter can build a path capable of overcoming the functional conception" that currently seems to "animate every aspect of social reality, with human beings often treated as objects". At the same time, friendship and encounter are "a style of government, a call to responsibility at the various levels and functions of government". An "interesting and feasible itinerary, which asks the Christian to constantly confront his conscience and not only his abilities".

In essence, precisely in this historical phase that seeks to exorcise "the pain, uncertainty, fear and awareness of one's limits that the pandemic has awakened", the time has come to "rethink our lifestyles, our relationships, the organisation of our societies and above all the meaning of our existence".

04 September 2021, 16:12