Cardinal Parolin: Fraternity and hope are keys to finding way out of crises
By Robin Gomes
During pandemics, our lives "are intertwined and sustained by ordinary people, who have undoubtedly written the decisive events of our shared history": Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin made the observation in his homily at Mass on Sunday in the Cathedral of Verona, Italy, concluding the 11th Festival of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The November 25 to 28 Festival had as its the theme "Bold in hope - Creative with courage”.
Church’s social teaching
Later, in an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Parolin referred again to the theme. One of the paths that instills hope is the Social Doctrine of the Church because it provides not only paths for reflection, but also “the criteria for judgement, indications, and operational guidelines” on which to move on issues that concern everyone. The Social Doctrine, he said, is a reference point not only to believers but also to non-believers because issues such as peace, jobs, development, civil and common life, and politics are areas of interest for everyone.
Speaking about living the season of Advent that has just begun, amidst the ongoing pandemic, the Vatican Secretary of State spoke about the need for constant commitment and responsibility with regard to the vaccine and the search for the most suitable cures. However, “our efforts cannot be fruitful” except by “opening ourselves more and more to Him and to His coming, to His grace and to His power”. “Hence the twofold direction: man's effort, which can never be lacking, but at the same time, relying on the Lord's grace”.
Assisted suicide and suffering
The cardinal also expressed concern over the issue of euthanasia, or assisted suicide, in Italy, on which debate is hotting up after an ethics committee in the central Italian region of Marche gave its green light for what will be the country's first legal assisted suicide case.
“Today we live in a society that is increasingly de-Christianized, where the reference to the infinite value of life is increasingly lacking... in addressing these issues.” He underscored the need for Christians to “insist on the anthropological vision of faith, which comes from the Gospel, which is a condition for safeguarding the dignity of every person”. “If we defend these values, it is because we are convinced that they are an indispensable condition for defending, promoting, protecting and developing the concrete dignity of every person… not the abstract person, but a concrete person”. This, he said, must be done above all through example.
Referring to Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, Cardinal Parolin stressed the need of doing good through suffering. Someone in pain, even one who is experiencing extreme suffering to the point of contemplating ending his or her life, he said, can give meaning to suffering. “If there is no meaning, suffering is incomprehensible, suffering becomes unbearable”, he said
On being asked about anti-Covid-19 vaccination protests in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, the Vatican Secretary of State reiterated Pope Francis’ appeal to people's “sense of responsibility”. “Many call for freedom", the cardinal said, "but freedom without responsibility is empty; indeed, it becomes slavery”. He said it is responsibility towards oneself because we see how the “No Vax” (no vaccination) people are affected by the disease. Above all, it is responsibility towards others, which the Pope beautifully described as an act of love.
Cardinal Parolin also addressed the issue of the ongoing two-year-long synodal process across the world that Pope Francis inaugurated on October 10. He said the Pope’s teaching provides precise indications so that we do not remain prisoners, or even victims, of the current climate of little hope and discouragement, but can take the situation in hand, always in the dynamic of “God's grace and man's effort, and move forward”. The cardinal said this involvement of the whole Church through listening, co-responsibility, and participation in her mission can be a very precise indication for dealing with the present time and for giving hope to our situations as well.
The Pope’s call to fraternity in his encyclical Fratelli tutti, he pointed out, is a fundamental indication at the level of society in general, as a way out of the crisis in which we find ourselves — because no one is saved alone.