"It is caring, compassionate and committed to dialogue."
It is the inconvenient truth that no one dared speak about—that our world is “showing signs of regression.”
Politics often finds itself at the middle of this societal maelstrom.
In fact, more and more people see politics as part of the problem.
Pope Francis himself, in his recent encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” appears to share this concern.
The Pope writes: “Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people's lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and countercharges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation.”
Far from being frustrated and discouraged, Pope Francis speaks about the future with profound optimism.
He challenges today’s society to embrace “the better kind of politics.”
It is a timely wake up call for the political landscape in Asia’s largest Catholic nation.
The Catholic Church remains one of most trusted social institutions in the Philippines, and at times one of the most critical of government excesses and social injustice.
This has often result in an uneasy relationship between faith and politics.
Inspired by the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Pope affirms an earlier call to Catholics not to be indifferent to politics. “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”
This “better kind of politics” is caring, compassionate and committed to dialogue.
Once more the pope appeals for a renewed appreciation of politics as “a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”.
This definitely runs counter to today’s polarized political landscape, widening economic inequality and increasing social unrest.
The Pope takes note of these adverse realities: “Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism, and polarization have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion. Their share of the truth and their values are rejected and, as a result, the life of society is impoverished and subjected to the hubris of the powerful.”
In a time of much uncertainty, the Pope’s encyclical is a timely call to reflect on and reimagine our social, economic and political structures.
Contrary to the perception of being the problem, the Pope believes that politics can provide the solution.
He points to a politics that is rooted in compassion and charity, seeks the common good, places human dignity at the center, unites us and builds community, and demonstrates a preferential love for those in greatest need.
He affirms that in order to create an open world with an open heart, it is necessary to engage in politics, and a better kind of politics is essential. Politics for the common and universal good.
With the filing of candidacies for the 2022 elections happening a year from now, “Fratelli Tutti” offers a timely moral guidance for voters—and a fitting examination of conscience for politicians.
Pope Francis reminds us that the politics of rivalry and rancor must give way to a politics of cooperation and solidarity.
He also underscores that politics can and must be “something more noble than posturing, marketing and media spin.”
The relevance and timeliness of the pope’s latest encyclical is further amplified by the fact that it was written at time of the coronavirus pandemic. Amid this global crisis, the Pope offers, in clear and simple language, profound spiritual and moral guidance.
In fact, the Pope opens his encyclical with an assessment of the world’s inability to come together for a common response to COVID-19. Reflecting on his words, the Pope appears to ask each one of us the question, “In response to this crisis, did we work as one community, or did we focus only on ourselves?”
In a society fatigued and frustrated by this crisis, Pope Francis asks us to stop and instead of indifference and cynicism, to look at the world in a different way. He challenges us to pay attention, not only to the suffering and difficulties around us, but also to its beauty, grace and resilience.
The Pope’s challenge is most especially true for the Church, including in the Philippines. Going beyond simply challenging our political, economic and social life, the Church must stand as a “well-spring for a fatigued world.” It cannot stay behind the walls of our churches, instead it must go out into the world to accompany life, sustain hope and build a society of justice and mercy, compassion and charity.
“Fratelli Tutti” asks us to embrace “a culture of encounter capable of transcending our differences and divisions,” a culture where everyone is included and no one is expendable. This is a message and call to action that our world desperately needs.