For a Better Kind of Politics
Even though the words politics and politician sound detestable to many people, we need sound politics to manage our societies. Pope Francis speaks of “political love” which is a kind of love that transcends any individualistic mindset and promotes the common good of people.
PUBLISHED ONDec 2022
In this article, I will be focusing on the second part of chapter five, from numbers 176 to 197 of Fratelli Tutti. In number 176, Pope Francis says: “For many people today, politics is a distasteful word, often due to the mistakes, corruption, and inefficiency of some politicians. There are also attempts to discredit politics, to replace it with economics or to twist it to one ideology or another.”
Having said this, the Pontiff makes a clear-cut statement saying that the world cannot function without politics. Naturally, he has in mind the kind of sound politics that we need!
Reflecting and praying over what Pope Francis says, three points come to mind in a special way:
Politicians must heed the call to have the same sentiments as Christ Jesus “Who being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped; but he emptied himself taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are, and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Philippians 2, 6-8).
For every good politician, there cannot be love without suffering. Every person who loves suffers. And a politician, who does not nourish love with sacrifice, condemns himself/herself to a kind of mediocrity that for every honest person becomes unbearable. He/she cannot be a watchperson in charge of scanning the horizon for the coming dawn (see Isaiah 21:12). One day a good friend of mine involved in politics told me: “The danger is real: people are waiting to talk to me because they are in need of something urgent, and I say I will see them later on. And they wait while they should not wait. In fact, my call is to serve them as soon as possible.”
“Love people and use things.” This principle is good for all people and it is good for politicians. A person, a politician who loves things, will soon start using people to get more and more of the things he/she loves.
In numbers 180-182, Pope Francis speaks of political love. He says: “Recognizing that all people are our brothers and sisters and seeking forms of social friendship that include everyone, is not merely utopian. It demands a decisive commitment to devising effective means to this end” (n. 180).
Considering the Pontiff’s thoughts in the following numbers, I would say that an effective means would be that of creating a community in which its members take care of each other. Good politicians should be leaders of people who become neighbors to all people acting for their good.
This kind of love, expressed through different gestures, is what Pope Francis calls civic and political love. In number 182, he says that this kind of love transcends every individualistic mindset and is expressed within the context of a deep social dimension that unites people.
In number 183, and in addition to political love, the Pontiff speaks of effective love. Quoting Saint Paul VI, he says: “(Effective love) makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. Charity with its impulse to universality is capable of building a new world.”
Pope Francis also expresses an important thought in line with what a great Carmelite saint, Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism who died in 1942 in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, wrote. He echoes the saint and emphasizes that “There is no truth without love and no love without truth” (n. 183-185).
In the last section of chapter 5, ‘The Exercise of Political Love,’ the Pontiff speaks of the obligation that all people, especially politicians, have to help the poor while aiming at eliminating the causes of poverty; to have tender, loving care for the elderly; to improve structures and programs in the field of education so that all may have the possibility of shaping their own future; to fight against everything that threatens or violates fundamental human rights; and to see that all may have the possibility of living a dignified life.
Finally, Pope Francis stresses the importance for politicians to build strong bridges for all people to be able to meet and interact. Building bridges is a great act of political love. In fact, through open and sincere interaction, all people involved in it are acknowledged and valued in their dignity and are integrated into society.
Naturally, building bridges requires sacrifices. Because of this, politicians and all people must remember that true love nourishes itself with sacrifices for great things to happen in individual lives and in society.
May the Lord grant all politicians the grace to achieve all the good there is for every person entrusted to their care. And may they never lose hope in their mission.