Catholics engaging in politics
«Dear Friends from Catholic Action, continue to feel a great sense of responsibility for sowing the good seed of the Gospel in the life of the world, through your charitable work, through your involvement in political life – but please, politics in the noblest sense of the world, politics with a capital P! You can also do this through your strong commitment to education and your engagement in the cultural sphere».
Pope Francis gave us this clear invitation to take care of the common good on April 30 2017, during the meeting in St. Peter’s Square with Catholic Action, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Association. It was a fatherly plea, which we did not see as addressed only to the members of Catholic Action but, more generally, to lay Christians who feel the willingness to engage with the world today. I felt particularly intrigued by the reference to engage in "politics in the noblest sense of the world, politics with capital P". There is a lot of debate today on the issue: what contribution can Catholics, both as individuals and as associate organizations, make to the social and political life of the places where they live? The reflections articulated after that day were collected into a book, "The capital P – Engaging in politics at the grass roots". It contains several interviews, in which we tried to put into practice the advice of Pope Francis in the current context.
The need for politics “with a capital P” undoubtedly challenges the whole European and international scenario, in a time of tensions fed by new populisms and during a sort of "piecemeal third world war" as Pope Francis sees it. Indeed, today's world is marked by conflicts of different kinds. The violence of terrorism becomes confused with the violence of the many wars that oppress the poorest countries. Many of the wealthy nations react to tensions by choosing to isolate themselves instead of boosting the reasons for peaceful coexistence. At the same time, Western democracies seem to be going through a phase of crisis and many people believe in identity and strong leadership, with the illusion that those can solve problems.
Challenged by difficulties that seem enormous to face, it can be natural to think that the solution is closing and raising up barriers. But the world today does not need a selfish policy. It would not only be unjust, but even inconvenient. As Pope Francis himself teaches in the encyclical Laudato si', if there are shared problems, the answers must also be shared. The big issues of our time cannot, therefore, be solved by individual states. We need to cultivate the reasons for international solidarity and peace, instead of going back to a way of conceiving the world as shaped by the idea of balance among powers. This is why, for example, the Italian Catholic Action often puts forward initiatives and organizes events concerning international law and Europe.
In this era of uncertainty, many people prefer to question the project of European unity that has brought so many advantages to our continent over the years. We firmly believe that we need now to push Europe to make a leap forward and recover that same energy which allowed us to find a completely new solution. European unity would have been inconceivable a few years ago, but it helped to face the problems that affected all European nations and that seemed unsolvable, in a period which was no easier than the one we are going through today.
Therefore, it is also our responsibility, as citizens and as lay Catholics, to promote politics to take care of today’s many urgencies, even of the ones that seem out of our reach, too big or too difficult to deal with, without renouncing the task of shaping the future. I am thinking, for example, about the fight against crime and corruption, the protection of the environment, the development of the poorest countries, the shaping of a peaceful coexistence among peoples, religions and cultures, the recovery of economy and employment, the promotion and protection of health and life.
I therefore deeply share what Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Italian Republic, said last year, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the European Economic Community. He said: “Europe’s fathers, who gave life to the Treaties with the democratic consent of their countries, were not visionaries, but politicians, conscious about the challenges and risks, capable of confronting them. Those men had the courage to transform the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities, the anxieties of their respective peoples into strengths, to put the capacities of each country in common and to aim at creating a great open society, in which freedom, democracy and cohesion would have been mutually ensured”. Today we are asked to do the same. And we are asked to urge politicians to do the same, in a lot of domains.
National president of Italian Catholic Action – Azione Cattolica Italiana
Author of the book “The capital P – Engaging in politics at the grass roots”
Translated from the original text in Italian
The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Social Centre.