Pope Francis on Tuesday held a meeting with Political, Economic, and Civic Leaders at Saint Francis Church in Quito, Ecuador. Below please find the official English translation of the prepared remarks of the Holy Father.
Meeting with Political, Economic and Civic Leaders
Saint Francis Church, Quito
Tuesday, 7 July 2015
I am pleased to be with you, men and women who represent and advance the social, political and economic life of this country.
As I entered this church, the Mayor of Quito gave me the keys to the city. So I can say that here, in Saint Francis of Quito, I feel at home. His expression of affectionate closeness, opening your doors to me, allows me to speak, in turn, about a few other keys: keys to our life in society, beginning with family life.
Our society benefits when each person and social group feels truly at home. In a family, parents, grandparents and children feel at home; no one is excluded. If someone has a problem, even a serious one, even if he brought it upon himself, the rest of the family comes to his assistance; they support him. His problems are theirs. Should it not be the same in society? Our relationships in society and political life, though, are often based on confrontation and the attempt to eliminate our opponents. My position, my ideas and my plans will move forward if I can prevail over others and impose my will. Is this the way a family should be? In families, everyone contributes to the common purpose, everyone works for the common good, not denying each person’s individuality but encouraging and supporting it. The joys and sorrows of each are felt by all. That is what it means to be a family! If only we could view our political opponents or neighbors in the same way we view our children or our spouse, mother or father! Do we love our society? Do we love our country, the community which we are trying to build? Do we love it in the abstract, in theory? Let us love it by our actions more than by our words! In every person, in concrete situations, in our life together, love always leads to communication, never to isolation.
This feeling can give rise to small gestures which strengthen personal bonds. I have often spoken the importance of the family as the primary cell of society. In the family, we find the basic values of love, fraternity and mutual respect, which translate into essential values for society as a whole: gratitude, solidarity and subsidiarity.
Parents know that all their children are equally loved, even though each has his or her own character. But when children refuse to share what they have freely received, this relationship breaks down. The love of their parents helps children to overcome their selfishness, to learn to live with others, to yield and be patient. In the wider life of society we come to see that “gratuitousness” is not something extra, but rather a necessary condition of justice. Who we are, and what we have, has been given to us so that we can place it at the service of others. Our task is to make it bear fruit in good works. The goods of the earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, towards social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits. As stewards of these riches which we have received, we have an obligation toward society as a whole and towards future generations. We cannot bequeath this heritage to them without proper care for the environment, without a sense of gratuitousness born of our contemplation of the created world. Among us today are some of our brothers and sisters representing the indigenous peoples of the Equatorial Amazon. That region is one of the “richest areas both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species… it requires greater protection because of its immense importance for the global ecosystem… it possesses an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when [such woodlands] are burned down or leveled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands” (cf. Laudato Si’, 37-38). Ecuador – together with other countries bordering the Amazon – has an opportunity to become a teacher of integral ecology. We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!
Out of the family’s experience of fraternity is born solidarity in society, which does not only consist in giving to those in need, but in feeling responsible for one another. If we see others as our brothers and sisters, then no one can be left out or set aside.
Ecuador, like many Latin American nations, is now experiencing profound social and cultural changes, new challenges which need to be faced by every sector of society. Migration, overcrowded cities, consumerism, crises in the family, unemployment and pockets of poverty: all these factors create uncertainty and tensions which threaten social harmony. Laws and regulations, as well as social planning, need to aim at inclusion, create opportunities for dialogue and encounter, while leaving behind all forms of repression, excessive control or loss of freedom as painful past memories. Hoping in a better future calls for offering real opportunities to people, especially young people, creating employment, and ensuring an economic growth which is shared by all (rather than simply existing on paper, in macroeconomic statistics), and promoting a sustainable development capable of generating a solid and cohesive social fabric.
Finally, the respect for others which we learn in the family finds social expression in subsidiarity. To recognize that our choices are not necessarily the only legitimate ones is a healthy exercise in humility. In acknowledging the goodness inherent in others, even with their limitations, we see the richness present in diversity and the value of complementarity. Individuals and groups have the right to go their own way, even though they may sometimes make mistakes. In full respect for that freedom, civil society is called to help each person and social organization to take up its specific role and thus contribute to the common good. Dialogue is needed and is fundamental for arriving at the truth, which cannot be imposed, but sought with a sincere and critical spirit. In a participatory democracy, each social group, indigenous peoples, Afro-Ecuadorians, women, civic associations and those engaged in public service are all indispensable participants in this dialogue. The walls, patios and cloisters of this city eloquently make this point: rooted in elements of Incan and Caranqui culture, beautiful in their proportions and shapes, boldly and strikingly combining different styles, the works of art produced by the “Quito school” sum up that great dialogue, with its successes and failures, which is Ecuador’s history. Today we see how beautiful it is. If the past was marked by errors and abuses – how can we deny it! – we can say that the amalgamation which resulted radiates such exuberance that we can look to the future with great hope.
The Church wishes for her part to cooperate in the pursuit of the common good, through her social and educational works, promoting ethical and spiritual values, and serving as a prophetic sign which brings a ray of light and hope to all, especially those most in need.
Thank you for being here, for listening to me. I ask you please to carry my words of encouragement to the different communities and groups which you represent. May the Lord grant that the civil society which you represent will always be a fitting setting for experiencing and practicing these values of which I have spoken.