Pope's teachings

Peace, Word, Mercy. Words to write with a capital letter

Three of the Pope's teachings stand out in January, with three words that deserve to be written in capital letters: Peace, Word and Mercy. They correspond to the message for the Day of Peace, the first day of the year, to the celebration of the Sunday of the Word, and to the World Day of the Sick.

Ramiro Pellitero-February 4, 2022-Reading time: 8 minutes
peace word mercy teachings of the Pope

Let us summarize the Holy Father's teachings on these three occasions.

The road to peace: dialogue, education and work

The message for the 55th World Day of Peace (1-I-2022) was entitled: Dialogue between generations, education and work: tools for building lasting peace.

Paul VI had already affirmed that the path to peace had a new name: the integral development of man and of all peoples (cf. encyclical Populorum Progressio, 1967, n. 76). 

However, even today, Francis warns, wars, pandemic diseases, environmental degradation, etc., have not succeeded in changing the situation of the poor. "an economic model that is based more on individualism than on solidarity sharing." (n. 1 of the message of Francis), without listening to "the cry of the poor and the earth". 

At the same time, the Bishop of Rome reminds us that peace building is something that affects us all, even personally: "Everyone can collaborate in building a more peaceful world: starting from one's own heart and relationships in the family, in society and with the environment, to relations between peoples and between States."

It proposes three ways to build a lasting peace: "Dialogue between generations, as a basis for the realization of shared projects. Secondly, education, as a factor of freedom, responsibility and development. And finally, work for the full realization of human dignity". Three paths, by the way, very "walked" by the current successor of Peter.

Dialogue between generations

Neither individualism, selfish indifference nor violent protest are solutions. The current health crisis has brought, along with the loneliness of the elderly, the feeling of helplessness and the lack of a common ideal for the future, also the lack of trust. But we have also seen wonderful examples of solidarity. Dialogue is necessary. Y "Dialogue means listening to each other, confronting each other, agreeing and walking together". (n. 2). This is possible by uniting the experience of the elderly with the dynamism of the young. But it requires our will, that of all of us, to look beyond immediate interests, patches or quick fixes, in favor of shared and sustainable projects. Trees can only bear fruit from their roots. And those roots are strengthened by education and work. 

"It's education." -The successor of Peter remarked. "that which provides the grammar for dialogue between the generations, and it is in the experience of work that men and women of different generations find themselves helping each other, exchanging knowledge, experience and skills for the common good." (ibid.).

Investing in education and fostering a "culture of care

It is therefore regrettable that, while military expenditures are increasing, the budgets for education and training have decreased considerably in recent years, even though they are the best investment, because they are the most important and the most important investments. "the foundations of a cohesive, civil society, capable of generating hope, wealth and progress". (ibid, 3).

A change in financial strategies in relation to education is therefore necessary, together with the promotion of a more efficient and effective "culture of care". (cf. encyclical Laudato si', 231). What the Pope says here is important: that culture can be the common language for a dialogue that breaks down barriers and builds bridges. For, as he has said on other occasions, "A country grows when its diverse cultural riches dialogue constructively: popular culture, university culture, youth culture, artistic culture, technological culture, economic culture, family culture and media culture. (encyclical Fratelli tutti, n. 199).

It is necessary, Francisco proposes, to forge a new cultural paradigm through "a global education pact". that involves everyone and promotes an integral ecology according to a model of peace, development and sustainability, centered on fraternity and on the alliance between human beings and their environment (cf. to the Global Compact on Education. Together to Look Beyond, 15-X-2020). Thus, at the same time, young people will be able to occupy an appropriate place in the world of work.

Promoting and securing work 

Work builds and maintains peace because it is both an expression of self and a commitment to collaboration with others. The labor situation has suffered a severe blow with the Covid-19 pandemic. Especially those who live on precarious jobs, such as many migrants, have been left unprotected in the midst of a climate of insecurity. And all this can only be responded to by promoting decent work. "We have to join ideas and efforts to create the conditions and invent solutions, so that every human being of working age has the opportunity to contribute with his or her own work to the life of the family and society." (Pope's Message, n. 4). 

This is a challenge for everyone: for workers and entrepreneurs, for the state and institutions, for civil society and consumers. Above all for politics, which is called to seek the right balance between economic freedom and social justice. And," Pope Bergoglio points out, "it is a challenge for all: for workers and entrepreneurs, for the State and institutions, for civil society and consumers. "all those who act in this field, beginning with Catholic workers and businessmen, can find safe orientations in the social doctrine of the Church". (ibid.).

The Word reveals God and leads us to others 

On January 23, the Word of God SundayThe Pope Francis instituted it for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. In his homily the Pope highlighted two aspects. 

-The revealing Word of God. 

First, the Word reveals God: "It reveals to us the face of God." -Francisco points out. "as that of the One who takes care of our poverty and is concerned about our destiny.". Not as a tyrant shut away in heaven, nor as a cold, unperturbed observer, a neutral and indifferent god. He is the "God with us," Word made flesh, who takes sides on our behalf and becomes involved and committed to our pain, the "Loving Spirit" of man.

As a qualified spokesman for that Word in the Church, the Pope addresses his listeners, each one of us, personally: "He is a God who is close, compassionate and tender, who wants to relieve you of the burdens that crush you, who wants to warm the cold of your winters, who wants to illuminate your dark days, who wants to support your uncertain steps. And he does it with his Word, with which he speaks to you to rekindle hope amidst the ashes of your fears, to make you find joy in the labyrinths of your sadness, to fill with hope the bitterness of your loneliness. He makes you walk, not in a labyrinth, but along the way, to meet him every day".

And so Francis asks us if we carry in our hearts and transmit in the Church this true "image" of God, wrapped in the trust, mercy and joy of faith. Or if, on the contrary, we see him and show him in a rigorous way, wrapped in fear, as a false idol that neither helps us nor helps anyone.

The Word puts us in a healthy crisis. 

Secondly, the Word leads us to man. When we understand that God is compassionate and merciful, we overcome the temptation of a cold and external religiosity, which does not touch or transform life. "The Word urges us to go out of ourselves in order to set out to meet our brothers and sisters with the humble strength of God's liberating love". 

This is what Jesus did and said in the synagogue in Nazareth, when he revealed that "He is sent to go to meet the poor - who are all of us - and set them free." He did not come to deliver a set of rules but to free us from the chains that imprison our souls. "In this way he reveals to us what is the worship that most pleases God: to take care of our neighbor. 

The Word puts in crisis those justifications of ours that always make what does not work depend on the other or on others".. And the Pope does not speak of theories: "How much pain we feel when we see our brothers and sisters dying at sea because they are not allowed to disembark."

He continues to put the sword in the soul: "The Word of God invites us to come out into the open, not to hide behind the complexity of problems, behind 'there is nothing to be done' or 'what can I do' or 'it's their problem or his'. He exhorts us to act, to unite the worship of God and the care of man". 

In addition to rigidity, which for Francis is typical of modern Pelagianism, the Word of God is also opposed to any "angelic" or disincarnated spirituality, typical of the neo-Gnostic movements. The Pope describes it with a very graphic expression: "A spirituality that puts us 'in orbit' without caring for our brothers and sisters.".

The fruits of the Word of God are quite different: "The Word who became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14) wants to become incarnate in us. He does not distance us from life, but introduces us to life, to everyday situations, to listen to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, to the cry of the poor, to the violence and injustices that wound society and the planet, so that we may not be indifferent Christians but hardworking, creative Christians, prophetic Christians"..

The Word of God is not a dead letter, but spirit and life. In the words of Madeleine Delbrêl (a French mystic who worked in the working class milieus of Paris, died in 1964 and is currently in the process of beatification), Francis says that "the conditions of the listening that the Word of the Lord demands of us are those of our 'today': the circumstances of our daily life and the needs of our neighbor". 

All this commits us, the Pope points out, first of all to place the Word of God at the center of pastoral care, to listen to it and from there to listen to and attend to the needs of others. 

Accompanying the sick with mercy

Finally, in his message for the 30th World Day of the Sick (February 11, 2022), Peter's successor echoes the words of the Gospel: "Be merciful as your Father is merciful." (Lk 6:36). And he invites us concretely to "to be at the side of those who suffer on a path of charity".

Jesus, mercy of the Father

Francis asks us to be "merciful as the Father", whose mercy "has in itself both the dimension of fatherhood and motherhood (cf. Is 49:15), for He cares for us with the strength of a father and the tenderness of a mother, always ready to give us new life in the Holy Spirit."

The Pope then asks why Jesus, "mercy of the Father"He cared especially for the sick to the point that this care, together with the proclamation of the faith, formed part of the mission of the apostles (cf. Lk 9:2). 

This time he responds by quoting E. Lévinas: "Pain isolates completely and from this absolute isolation arises the call to the other, the invocation of the other" (An Ethics of Suffering, Paris 1994, pp. 133-135). And the Pope evokes so many sick people who have suffered in the loneliness of the pandemic. 

Agents and health care facilities

This is especially relevant for healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, lab technicians, patient assistants, and so many volunteers).), "whose service at the side of the sick, carried out with love and competence, transcends the limits of the profession to become a mission". 

He adds as if speaking to each and every one: "Your hands, which touch the suffering flesh of Christ, can be a sign of the Father's merciful hands." and invites them to be aware of the great dignity of this profession and the responsibility it entails. They touch the flesh of Christ who suffers. 

Appreciating the great progress of medical science, both in treatments and in research and rehabilitation, the Pope recalls a fundamental principle. We cannot forget that "The patient is always more important than his illness and that is why every therapeutic approach cannot fail to listen to the patient, his history, his anguish and his fears. Even when it is not possible to cure, it is always possible to care, it is always possible to comfort, it is always possible to make the patient feel a closeness that shows interest in the person rather than in his pathology". It is therefore to be hoped that professional training will enable health care workers to know how to listen to and relate to the patient.

Francis stresses the importance of Catholic health centers and institutions: "In an era in which the throwaway culture is widespread and life is not always recognized as having the dignity to be welcomed and lived, these structures are not always recognized, as houses of mercycan be an example in the protection and care of every existence, even the most fragile, from its conception to its natural end".

For so many reasons, the Pope concludes with a reference to the pastoral care of health, even though visiting the sick is an invitation that Christ makes to all his disciples: "I was sick and you visited me." (Mt 25:36).

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