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Ramiro Pellitero Iglesias, Professor of Theology, University of Navarra, Spain School

"Healing the world": everyone's task

Thu, 01 Oct 2020 15:35:00 +0000 Posted in Word

Since August 5, the Pope has been imparting, in his Wednesday audiences, a catechesis entitled "Healing the World". The aim is to guide Catholics and enlighten everyone - in the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the "social diseases" it reveals - for the construction of a better world, full of hope. Francis indicated at the beginning that he would do it under a triple focus: the message of the Gospel, the theological virtues and the social doctrine of the Church. And in this triple core topic he shows himself to be an excellent teacher and catechist of the faith. In this way he has undoubtedly been preparing the publication of his new encyclical on fraternity(Fratelli tutti).

Christ brings healing and salvation

At the first catechesis, the Pope explained how the kingdom of God brings healing and salvation at the same time, and is manifested in faith, hope and love. Healing speaks to us of our physical, spiritual and social infirmities. Jesus dealt with all these dimensions of the sick. For example, in healing the paralytic of Capernaum (cf. Mk. 2:1-12)

"Christ's action is a direct response to the faith of these people, to the hope they place in him, to the love they show for one another. And so Jesus heals, but he does not simply heal paralysis, he heals everything, he forgives sins, he renews the life of the paralytic and his friends. He is born again, let's put it this way. A physical and spiritual healing, all together, fruit of a meeting staff and social"(General Audience, August 5, 2020).

How can we help to heal our world? The Church, which as an institution is neither concerned with health issues nor with giving socio-political indications in this regard, has developed some social principles that help in the healing - we could say integral - of people, while at the same time inviting them to open themselves to the salvation offered by the Christian message. The main ones are: "the principle of the dignity of the person, the principle of the common good, the principle of the preferential option for the poor, the principle of the universal destination of goods, the principle of solidarity, of subsidiarity, the principle of care for our common home"(Ibid.).

Faith and dignity, hope and Economics

In the second catechesis ("Faith and Human Dignity", August 12), Francis pointed out that the pandemic is not the only disease to fight, because it has brought to light other "social pathologies", based on an individualistic and throwaway culture, which reduces the human being to "a consumer good". Human dignity, which is based on the creation of man as the image and likeness of God, is thus forgotten. This fundamental dignity of every person is the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), as recognized not only by believers but also by many people of good will. And human dignity has serious social, economic and political implications and promotes attitudes such as attention, care and compassion.

He then focused on the preferential option for the poor and the virtue of charity as two "means" proposed by Christianity (19-VIII-2020). The first -he strongly emphasized- is not a political, ideological or party option, but is at the heart of the Gospel. The life of Jesus, his teachings and his followers are recognized "by his closeness to the poor, to the little ones, to the sick and imprisoned, to the excluded, to the forgotten, to those who are deprived of food and clothing" (cf. Mt 25:31-36), and we will all be judged by this parameter.

"Faith, hope and love necessarily push us towards this preference for the most needy, which goes beyond the purely necessary attendance. In fact, it implies walking together, letting ourselves be evangelized by them, who know the suffering Christ well, letting ourselves be 'infected' by their experience of salvation, their wisdom and their creativity".

Therefore, we must work to heal and change the "sick socialStructures ", because from the pandemic, as from any crisis, we come out better or worse. And we would like to come out better.

"It would be sad if in the vaccine for Covid-19 priority were given to the rich! (...) There are criteria for choosing which industries to help: those that contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, to the promotion of the last, to the common good and to the care of creation. Four criteria".

The fourth day, August 26, focused on the universal destination of goods and the virtue of hope. A Economics is sick if it promotes "the sin of wanting to possess, of wanting to dominate our brothers and sisters, of wanting to possess and dominate nature and God himself". The subordination of the legitimate right to private property to the universal destination of goods is a 'golden rule' of the social-ethical order (cf. Laudato si', 93).

Do I think about the needs of others?

The following week, September 2, the Pope returned to the virtue of faith, this time in relation to solidarity. Solidarity is not only about helping others, but is a matter of justice, with "strong roots in what is human and in the nature created by God". In the biblical story of Babel, what prevailed was the desire to win at the cost of instrumentalizing people; at Pentecost the opposite happens: harmony triumphs, because each one serves as an instrument to build the community. The question core topic is: "Do I think of the needs of others?"

He then went on to discuss love and the common good. The Christian response to the pandemic and the ensuing socio-economic crises is based on love. And love is expansive and inclusive, reaching out to all, to civic and political relationships, and also to enemies.

"The coronavirus sample tells us that the true good for each person is the common good, not only the individual good - of persons, companies or nations - and, vice versa, the common good is a true good for the person" (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1905-1906). A virus that knows no barriers must be confronted with a love that knows no barriers. And this must be translated into the social Structures . But the common good is, to begin with, the task of each and every one. And for Christians it is also a mission statement.

"Christians, especially the lay faithful, are called to bear good witness to this and can do so thanks to the virtue of charity, cultivating its intrinsic social dimension." Each one must manifest this in his daily life, even in the smallest gestures.

Care and contemplation

In the seventh catechesis he focused on the care of the common home and the contemplative attitude. Care for the sick, the elderly and the weak must be associated with care for the earth and its creatures. And for this, as the encyclical Laudato Si' teaches , contemplation is necessary. Without it, we easily fall into the "unbalanced and arrogant anthropocentrism" that turns us into despot dominators over others and over the earth. 

"Those who do not know how to contemplate nature and creation do not know how to contemplate people in their richness. And those who live to exploit nature end up exploiting people and treating them as slaves".

On the other hand, Francisco assures us, "the contemplative in action tends to become a guardian of the environment (...), trying to combine ancestral knowledge of millenary cultures with new technical knowledge, so that our lifestyle is always sustainable". That is why contemplating and caring are two fundamental attitudes. And it is not enough to say, "Well, this is how I manage": "The problem is not how you manage today; the problem is: what will be the inheritance, the life of the future generation?" It is important to contemplate in order to heal, protect and leave a bequest to those who come after us.