POPE Francis says thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice.
In his message ahead of the celebration of the 52nd World Day of Peace due January 1, 2019, the pontiff says good politics is at the service of peace.
“Peace is like the hope which the poet Charles Péguy celebrated. It is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence. We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice,” he said. “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalisation and even destruction.”
Pope Francis noted what Jesus said: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all”.
“Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future,” he says. “If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.”
The Pontiff said charity and human virtues were the basis of politics at the service of human rights and peace.
“This is a programme on which all politicians, whatever their culture or religion, can agree, if they wish to work together for the good of the human family and to practice those human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity,” he said.
Pope Francis said every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, was an opportunity to return to the original points of reference that inspire justice and law.
“One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations,” he said.
Pope Francis said sadly, together with its virtues, politics also had its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions.
“Clearly, these vices detract from the credibility of political life overall, as well as the authority, decisions and actions of those engaged in it. These vices, which undermine the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony,” he said. “We think of corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.”
Pope Francis said good politics promote the participation of the young and trust in others.
“When the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals, the future is compromised and young people can be tempted to lose confidence, since they are relegated to the margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future,” he said. “But when politics concretely fosters the talents of young people and their aspirations, peace grows in their outlook and on their faces. It becomes a confident assurance that says, ‘I trust you and with you I believe’ that we can all work together for the common good. Politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and abilities of each individual. Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home. Authentic political life, grounded in law and in frank and fair relations between individuals, experiences renewal whenever we are convinced that every woman, man and generation brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies.”
Pope Francis said that kind of trust was never easy to achieve because human relations were complex, especially “in our own times, marked by a climate of mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers, or anxiety about one’s personal security.”
“Sadly, it is also seen at the political level, in attitudes of rejection or forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need,” he said.
“Today more than ever, our societies need artisans of peace who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.”
Pope Francis called for rejection of war and the strategy of fear.
“A hundred years after the end of the First World War, as we remember the young people killed in those battles and the civilian populations torn apart, we are more conscious than ever of the terrible lesson taught by fratricidal wars: peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear,” he said. “To threaten others is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity. This is why we state once more that an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace. Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace. Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.”
Pope Francis said his thoughts were with all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights.
“One out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups. The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity,” he said.
Pope Francis said peace, in effect, was the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings.
“But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal and it has three inseparable aspects: – peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; – peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say,” he said.
He said the other aspect was peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of the world, citizens and builders of the future.