What is pol­i­tics and who is the politi­cian?

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

The mes­sage of Pope Francis for the cel­e­bra­tion of the 52nd world day of peace is but a brief and pointed cat­e­ch­esis of what pol­i­tics and be­ing a politi­cian is all about. Its ti­tle al­ready says much: Good pol­i­tics is at the ser­vice of peace.

In his mes­sage Pope Francis gives an am­ple vi­sion of what pol­i­tics re­ally is. Quot­ing Pope Emer­i­tus Bene­dict XVI’s sev­enth para­graph of his en­cycli­cal let­ter Car­i­tas in Ver­i­tate, Francis ob­serves that “ev­ery Chris­tian is called to prac­tise char­ity in a man­ner cor­re­spond­ing to his vo­ca­tion and ac­cord­ing to the de­gree of in­flu­ence he wields in the pólis… When an­i­mated by char­ity, com­mit­ment to the com­mon good has greater worth than a merely sec­u­lar and po­lit­i­cal stand would have… Man’s earthly ac­tiv­ity, when in­spired and sus­tained by char­ity, con­trib­utes to the build­ing of the univer­sal city of God, which is the goal of the his­tory of the hu­man fam­ily” (no. 3).

Then, Pope Francis com­ments that “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 prac­tise those hu­man virtues that sus­tain all sound po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity: jus­tice, equal­ity, mu­tual re­spect, sin­cer­ity, hon­esty, fidelity” (no. 3).

The Holy Fa­ther beau­ti­fully en­fleshes these last men­tioned virtues, which are to be es­poused by ev­ery politi­cian, by re­fer­ring to the “Beat­i­tudes of the Politi­cian”, as lov­ingly sug­gested by the Viet­namese Car­di­nal François-Xavier Nguy n Vãn Thu n, whom the Pope de­scribes as “a faith­ful wit­ness to the Gospel” (no. 3).

“Blessed be the politi­cian with a lofty sense and deep un­der­stand­ing of his role. Blessed be the politi­cian who per­son­ally ex­em­pli­fies cred­i­bil­ity. Blessed be the politi­cian who works for the com­mon good and not his or her own in­ter­est. Blessed be the politi­cian who re­mains con­sis­tent. Blessed be the politi­cian who works for unity. Blessed be the politi­cian who works to ac­com­plish rad­i­cal change. Blessed be the politi­cian who is ca­pa­ble of lis­ten­ing. Blessed be the politi­cian who is with­out fear.”

When a politi­cian puts into prac­tice these life-giv­ing bless­ings he and she con­cretely ac­tu­ates what Pope Francis holds as be­ing the goal of po­lit­i­cal life: “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. If ex­er­cised with ba­sic re­spect for the life, free­dom and dig­nity of per­sons, po­lit­i­cal life can in­deed be­come an out­stand­ing form of char­ity.”

Un­for­tu­nately, there are “po­lit­i­cal vices” (no. 4) that ham­per such a vi­sion from tak­ing place. Mo­ti­vated by his pa­ter­nal love Holy Fa­ther opens the politi­cians’ eyes in or­der not to fall into these traps that blur the beauty and fruit­ful­ness of pol­i­tics.

“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” (no. 4).

For Pope Francis, to counter cor­rup­tion and cul­ti­vate trust in the peo­ple they are called to serve politi­cians need to sub­scribe them­selves to a form of pol­i­tics that “con­cretely fosters the tal­ents of young peo­ple and their as­pi­ra­tions… 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” (no.5).

Let us keep pray­ing and help­ing our politi­cians to be “ar­ti­sans of peace” (no. 5) so as to help us have peace with our­selves by “show­ing ‘a bit of sweet­ness to­wards one­self’ in or­der to of­fer ‘a bit of sweet­ness to oth­ers’; 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; peace with all cre­ation, re­dis­cov­er­ing the grandeur of God’s gift and our in­di­vid­ual and shared re­spon­si­bil­ity as in­hab­i­tants of this world, cit­i­zens and builders of the fu­ture” (no. 7). Fr Mario At­tard OFM Cap

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