Solidarity




Pope Francis  02.09.20  General Audience San Damaso courtyard      Catechesis: “Healing the world” - 5. Solidarity and the virtue of faith      Acts 2: 1-4

Pope Francis  Solidarity and the virtue of faith  02.09.20 General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

After many months we meet each other again our face to face, rather than screen to screen. Face to face. This is good! The current pandemic has highlighted our interdependence: we are all linked to each other, for better or for worse. Therefore, to come out of this crisis better than before, we have to do so together; together, not alone. Together. Alone no, because it cannot be done. Either it is done together, or it is not done. We must do it together, all of us, in solidarity. I would like to underline this word today: solidarity.

As a human family we have our common origin in God; we dwell in a common home, the garden-planet, the earth where God placed us; and we have a common destination in Christ. But when we forget all this, our interdependence becomes dependence on others, we lose this harmony of interdependence and solidarity and we become dependent - the dependence of some on a few, on others - increasing inequality and marginalisation; it weakens the social fabric and the environment deteriorates. It is always the same. The same way of acting.

Therefore, the principle of solidarity is now more necessary than ever, as Saint John Paul II taught (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis, 38-40). In an interconnected world, we experience what it means to live in the same “global village”; this expression is beautiful, isn’t it? The big wide world is none other than a global village, because everything is interconnected, but we do not always transform this interdependence into solidarity. There is a long journey between interdependence and solidarity. Selfishness - individual, national and power-groups - and ideological rigidities instead sustain "structures of sin” (ibid., 36).

“The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts - the odd sporadic act - of generosity". Much more! “It presumes the creation of a new mindset; a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 188). This is what “solidarity” means. It is not merely a question of helping others - it is good to do so, but it is more than that - it is a matter of justice (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1938-1949). Interdependence, in order to be in solidarity and to bear fruit, needs strong roots in the humanity and nature created by God; it needs respect for faces and for the land.

The Bible, from the very beginning, warns us of this. Think of the account of the Tower of Babel (see Gen 11: 1-9), which describes what happens when we try to reach heaven - that is, our destination - ignoring our bond with humanity, creation and the Creator. It is a figure of speech. This happens every time that someone wants to climb up and up, without taking others into consideration. Just myself, no? Think about the tower. We build towers and skyscrapers, but we destroy community. We unify buildings and languages, but we mortify cultural wealth. We want to be masters of the Earth, but we ruin biodiversity and ecological balance. In another audience I spoke about those fishermen from San Benedetto del Tronto, who came this year, and they told me that this year: “We have taken 24 tonnes of waste out of the sea, half of which was plastic”. Just think! These people have the task of catching fish - yes - but also refuse, and of taking it out of the water to clean up the sea. But this is ruining the earth - not having solidarity with the earth, which is a gift - and the ecological balance.

I remember a medieval account of this “Babel syndrome”, which occurs when there is no solidarity. This medieval account says that, during the building of the tower, when a man fell - they were slaves, weren’t they? - and died, no-one said anything, or at best, “Poor thing, he made a mistake and he fell”. Instead, if a brick fell, everyone complained. And if someone was to blame, he was punished. Why? Because a brick was costly to make, to prepare, to fire… All of this. It took time to produce a brick, and work. A brick was worth more than a human life. Every one of us, think about what happens today. Unfortunately, something of the type can happen nowadays too. When shares fall in the financial markets, all the agencies report the news - we have seen it in the newspapers in these days. Thousands of people fall due to hunger and poverty, and no-one talks about it.

Pentecost is diametrically opposed to Babel (see Acts 2: 1-3), we heard at the beginning of the audience. The Holy Spirit, descending from above like wind and fire, sweeps over the community closed up in the Cenacle, infuses it with the power of God, and inspires it to go out and announce the Lord Jesus to everyone. The Spirit creates unity in diversity; He creates harmony. In the account of the Tower of Babel, there is no harmony; only pressing forward in order to earn. There, others are simply instruments, mere “manpower”, but here, in Pentecost, each one of us is an instrument, but a community instrument that participates fully in building up the community. Saint Francis of Assisi knew this well, and inspired by the Spirit, he gave all people, indeed creatures, the name of brother or sister (see LS 11; see Saint Bonaventure, Legenda maior, VIII, 6: FF 1145). Even brother wolf, remember.

With Pentecost, God makes Himself present and inspires the faith of the community united in diversity and in solidarity. Diversity and solidarity united in harmony, this is the way. A diversity in solidarity possesses “antibodies” that ensure that the singularity of each person - which is a gift, unique and unrepeatable - not sicken with individualism, with selfishness. Diversity in solidarity also possesses antibodies that heal social structures and processes that have degenerated into systems of injustice, systems of oppression (see Compendium of the social doctrine of the Church, 192). Therefore, solidarity today is the road to take towards a post-pandemic world, towards the healing of our interpersonal and social sicknesses. There is no other way. Either we go ahead along the road of solidarity, or things will worsen. I want to repeat this: one does not come out of a crisis the same as before. The pandemic is a crisis. We emerge from a crisis either better or worse than before. It is up to us to choose. And solidarity is, indeed, a way of coming out of the crisis better, not with superficial changes, with a fresh coat of paint so everything looks fine. No. Better!

In the midst of crises, a solidarity guided by faith enables us to translate the love of God in our globalised culture, not by building towers or walls - and how many walls are being built today! - that divide, but then collapse, but by interweaving communities and sustaining processes of growth that are truly human and solid. And to do this, solidity helps. I would like to ask a question: do I think of the needs of others? Everyone, answer in your heart.

In the midst of crises and tempests, the Lord calls to us and invites us to reawaken and activate this solidarity capable of giving solidity, support and meaning to these hours in which everything seems to be wrecked. May the creativity of the Holy Spirit encourage us to generate new forms of familiar hospitality, fruitful fraternity and universal solidarity. Thank you.





Pope Francis  23.09.20 General Audience, San Damaso courtyard   Catechesis “Healing the world”: 8. Subsidiarity and the virtue of hope   1 Corinthians 12: 14, 21, 22, 24-25

Pope Francis  From top to bottom and from bottom to top  - 23.09.20 General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, it does not seem that the weather is that great, but I wish you a good morning all the same!

To emerge better from a crisis like the current one, which is a health crisis and is, at the same time, a social, political and economic crisis, every one of us is called to assume responsibility for our own part, that is, to share the responsibility. We must respond not only as individual people, but also from the groups to which we belong, out of the roles we have in society, from our principles and, if we are believers, from our faith in God. Often, however, many people cannot participate in the reconstruction of the common good because they are marginalised, they are excluded or ignored; certain social groups do not succeed in making a contribution because they are economically or socially suffocated. In some societies, many people are not free to express their own faith and their own values, their own ideas: if they express them freely, they are put in jail. Elsewhere, especially in the western world, many people repress their own ethical or religious convictions. This is no way to emerge from the crisis, or at least to emerge from it better. We will emerge from it worse.

So that we might be able to participate in the healing and regeneration of our peoples, it is only right that everyone should have the adequate resources to do so (see Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [CSDC], 186). After the great economic depression of 1929, Pope Pius XI explained how important the principle of subsidiarity was (see Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, 79-80). This principle has a double movement: from top to bottom and from bottom to top. Perhaps we do not understand what this means, but it is a social principle that makes us more united. I will try to explain it.

On the one hand, and above all in moments of change, when single individuals, families, small associations and local communities are not capable of achieving primary objectives, it is then right that the highest levels of society, such as the State, should intervene to provide the necessary resources to progress. For example, because of the coronavirus lockdown, many people, families and economic entities found themselves and still find themselves in serious trouble. Thus, public institutions are trying to help through appropriate interventions, social economic, regarding health…this is their function, what they need to do.

On the other hand, however, society’s leaders must respect and promote the intermediate or lower levels. In fact, the contribution of individuals, of families, of associations, of businesses, or every intermediary body, and even of the Church, is decisive. All of these, with their own cultural, religious, economic resources, or civil participation, revitalize and reinforce society (see CSCD, 185). That is, there is a collaboration from the top and the bottom from the State to the people, and from the bottom to the top, from the institutions of people to the top. And this is exactly how the principle of subsidiarity is exercised.

Everyone needs to have the possibility of assuming their own responsibility in the process of healing the society of which they are a part. When a project is launched that directly or indirectly touches certain social groups, these groups cannot be left out from participating – for example: “What do you do?” “I go to work with the poor.” “Ah, how beautiful. And what do you do?” “I teach the poor, I tell the poor what they need to do.” No, this doesn’t work. The first step is to allow the poor to tell you how they live, what they need… Let everyone speak! And this is how the principle of subsidiarity works. We cannot leave out the participation of the people; their wisdom; the wisdom of the humbler groups cannot be set aside (see Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia [QA], 32; Encyclical Laudato Si’, 63). Unfortunately, this injustice happens often in those places where huge economic and geopolitical interests are concentrated, such as, for example, certain extractive activities in some areas of the planet (see QA, 9.14). The voices of the indigenous peoples, their culture and world visions are not taken into consideration. Today, this lack of respect of the principle of subsidiarity has spread like a virus. Let’s think of the grand financial assistance measures enacted by States. The largest financial companies are listened to rather than the people or the ones who really move the economy. Multinational companies are listened to more than social movements. Putting it in everyday language, they listen more to the powerful than to the weak and this is not the way, it is not the human way, it is not the way that Jesus taught us, it is not how the principle of subsidiarity is implemented. Thus, we do not permit people to be “agents in their own redemption”.[1] There is this motto in the collective unconscious of some politicians or some social workers: everything for the people, nothing with the people. From top to bottom without listening to the wisdom of the people, without activating the wisdom of the people in resolving problems, in this case to emerge from the crisis. Or let’s think about the cure for the virus: the large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than the healthcare workers employed on the front lines in hospitals or in refugee camps. This is not a good path. Everyone should be listened to, those who are at the top and those who are at the bottom, everyone.

To emerge better from a crisis, the principle of subsidiarity must be enacted, respecting the autonomy and the capacity to take initiative that everyone has, especially the least. All the parts of the body are necessary, as St Paul says, we’ve heard that those parts that may seem the weakest and least important, in reality are the most necessary (see 1 Cor 12:22). In light of this image, we can say that the principle of subsidiarity allows everyone to assume his or her own role for the healing and destiny of society. Implementing it, implementing the principle of subsidiarity gives hope, gives hope in a healthier and more just future; let’s construct this future together, aspiring to greater things, broadening our horizons and ideals.[2] Either we do it together, or it won’t work. Or we work together to emerge from the crisis, all levels of society, or we will never emerge from it. It does not work that way. To emerge from the crisis does not mean to varnish over current situations so that they might appear more just. No. To emerge from the crisis means to change, and true change to which every contributes, all the persons that form a people. All the professions, all of them. And everything together, everyone in the community. If everyone is not contributing the result will be negative.

In a previous catechesis we saw how solidarity – solidarity now – is the way out of the crisis: it unites us and allows us to find solid proposals for a healthier world. But this path of solidarity needs subsidiarity. Someone might say to me: “But, Father, today you are saying difficult things!” It’s because of this that I am trying to explain what it means. Solidarity, because we are taking the path of subsidiarity. In fact, there is no true solidarity without social participation, without the contribution of intermediary bodies: families, associations, cooperatives, small businesses, and other expressions of society Everyone needs to contribute, everyone. This type of participation helps to prevent and to correct certain negative aspects of globalization and the actions of States, just as it is happening regarding the healing of people affected by the pandemic. These contributions “from the bottom” should be encouraged. How beautiful it is to see the volunteers during the crisis. The volunteers come from every part of society, volunteers who come from well-off families and those who come from poorer families. But everyone, everyone together to emerge. This is solidarity and this is the principle of subsidiarity.

During the lockdown, the spontaneous gesture of applauding, applause for doctors and nurses began as a sign of encouragement and hope. Many risked their lives and many gave their lives. Let’s extend this applause to every member of the social body, to each and every one, for their precious contribution, no matter how small. “But can that person over there do?” “Listen to that person! Give the person space to work, consult him or her.” Let’s applaud the “cast-aways”, those whom culture defines as those to be “thrown out”, this throw-away culture – that is, let’s applaud the elderly, children, persons with disability, let’s applaud workers, all those who dedicate themselves to service. Everyone collaborating to emerge from the crisis. But let’s not stop only at applauding. Hope is audacious, and so, let’s encourage ourselves to dream big. Brothers and sisters, let’s learn to dream big! Let’s not be afraid to dream big, seeking the ideals of justice and social love that are born of hope. Let’s not try to reconstruct the past, the past is the past, let’s look forward to new things. The Lord’s promise is: “I will make all things news”. Let’s encourage ourselves to dream big, seeking those ideals, not trying to reconstruct the past, above all the past that was unjust and already ill…. Let’s construct a future where the local and global dimensions mutually enrich each other – everyone can contribute, everyone must contribute their share, from their culture, from their philosophy, from their way of thinking – where the beauty and the wealth of smaller groups, even the groups that are cast aside, might flourish –because beauty is there too – and where those who have more dedicate themselves to service and give more to those who have less. Thank you.

[1] Message for the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2020 (13 May 2020).
[2] See Discourse to students at the Fr. Félix Varela Cultural Center, Havana – Cuba, 20 September 2015.