Bernardo M. Villegas
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Pope Francis Is No Communist (Part 5)
published: Jun 29, 2021

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Loving the Poor This Christmas (Part 3)

          It is our great hope that economic and political leaders, especially among Christians,  will heed the words of Pope Francis so that to them also Jesus Christ can address these following words:  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25: 34 - 46).  Being Christ-centered is to have a preferential option for the poor, especially on the part of  important officials and personalities  who can make a difference in the political, economic and business worlds.  As Pope Francis reiterates in Fratelli Tutti “love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.  For this reason, charity finds expression not only in close and intimate relationships but also in “macro-relationships:  social, economic and political.”

         This appeal of Pope Francis is especially addressed to the so-called “influencers” in the fields of business and politics.  Hopefully, among them are the regular readers of my column entitled Business and Society.  If you are a CEO or a member of top management and the board of directors of large enterprises or an SME entrepreneur; if you are a member of the House of  Representative or the Senate; if you are a Cabinet Secretary; if you are a Justice in the Supreme Court; if you are heading any of the branches of the military and the police; if you are leading any NGO or any institution of civil society the message of Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti is especially for you.  All of you can exercise what the Supreme Pontiff calls “political love.”  In par. 180 of the Encyclical Letter, Pope Francis writes:  “Recognising that all peoples 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.  Any effort along these lines becomes a noble exercise of charity.  For whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the ‘field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity.’  This entails working for a social and political order whose soul is social charity.  Once more, I appeal 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.” Again, let me remind the reader that the common good is defined in the Social Doctrine of the Church as a social or juridical order which enables every member of society to attain his or her fullest human development economically, politically, socially, culturally, morally and spiritually.  It should never be defined as the greater good for the greater number which is the greatest excuse for an unjust majority to tyrannise the suffering minority.

         I hope that this Christmas of 2020, when there are many more millions all over the world crying out for help from the more fortunate members of society , will be an important turning point for influential people at all levels of society to exercise their preferential option for the poor.  They can exercise what Pope Francis calls “political love.”  He wrote:  “There is a kind of love that is ‘elicited’:  its act proceed directly from the virtue of charity and are directed to individuals and peoples.  There is also a ‘commanded’ love, expressed in those acts of charity that spur people to create more sound institutions, more just regulations, more supportive structures.  It follows that ‘it is an equally indispensable act of love to strive to organise and structure society so that one’s neighbour will not find himself in poverty.’   It is an act of charity to assist someone suffering, but it is also an act of charity, even if we do not know that person, to work to change the social conditions that caused his or her suffering.  If someone helps an  elderly person cross a river, that is a fine act of charity.  The politician, on the other hand, builds a bridge, and that too is an act of charity. This message of the Pope applies especially to the officials of our Department of Public Works and Highways.  By combatting corruption among their ranks, they are showing in a very concrete (no pun intended) manner their preferential option for the poor.  While one person can help another by providing something to eat, the politician creates a job for that other person, and thus practices a lofty form of charity that ennobles his or her political activity.  It is my most fervent hope that this Christmas, as they gaze at the Child Jesus lying in the manger, those who  plan to run for political positions in the 2022 elections will tell the God Child that they sincerely want the opportunity to practise political charity. 

         To the millennials and centennials reading this column, let me especially emphasize that they should avoid like the plague thinking of politics as an intrinsically  dirty field of human endeavor.  It would be tragic if the youth have become cynical about politicians in general.  Following especially the principle of subsidiarity, i.e. that problems should first be addressed at the grass roots of society, they should look for role models among mayors and governors who are honest and competent (I know there are) and given their  personal talents and inclinations towards public service, young people should not hesitate to chart a future political career.  They should use as their guiding principles the following words of Pope Francis:  “Politicians are called to ‘tend to the needs of individuals and peoples.  To tend those in need takes strength and  tenderness, effort and generosity in the midst of a functionalistic and privatised mindset that inexorably leads to a ‘throwaway culture.’…It involves taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalization and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it.’  It will likewise inspire intense efforts to ensure that ‘everything be done to protect the status and dignity of the human person.’  Politicians are doers, builders with ambitious goals, possessed of a broad, realistic and pragmatic gaze that looks beyond their own borders.  Their biggest concern should not be about a drop in the polls, but about finding effective solutions to the ‘phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences:  human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organised crime…”  As you adore the Child Jesus in the Crib prepared by your respective families in your homes, a non-traditional Christmas carol you can sing to Him is Michael Bolton’s “I Will Go the Distance”.  Merry Christmas and a Blessed  New Year filled with Peace and Joy.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia