Pope Francis this evening told civil leaders in Bolivia not to confuse the common good (bien común) with mere material well being (bienestar) and to guard against becoming accustomed to seeing poverty and inequality.
He said this during an address to authorities and leaders of society gathered at the La Paz Cathedral. He arrived to the capital this afternoon for a quick few-hour stop before this evening flying on to Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s most populous city.
After a courtesy visit with President Evo Morales and the exchange of multiple gifts, the Holy Father moved quickly to the cathedral for his address, first stopping to place a bouquet of flowers before an image of Our Lady.
“Each of us here shares a calling to work for the common good,” he said in addressing the representatives of civil society. “Fifty years ago, the Second Vatican Council defined the common good as ‘the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.’ […] May your efforts contribute to the growth of greater respect for the human person, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development, and social peace, namely, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice (cf. Laudato Si’, 157).” And departing from the text, he added, “that, simply said, riches be distributed.”
Continuing to reference his recent encyclical, the Pope called for an “integral ecology,” saying, “The natural environment is closely related to the social, political and economic environment.”
“It is so easy for us to become accustomed to the atmosphere of inequality all around us, with the result that we take it for granted. Without even being conscious of it, we confuse the ‘common good’ with ‘prosperity,’ [bienestar], especially when we are the ones who enjoy that prosperity. Prosperity understood only in terms of material wealth has a tendency to become selfish, to defend private interests, to be unconcerned about others, and to give free rein to consumerism. Understood in this way, prosperity, instead of helping, breeds conflict and social disintegration; as it becomes more prevalent, it opens the door to the evil of corruption, which brings so much discouragement and damage in its wake. The common good, on the other hand, is much more than the sum of individual interests. It moves from ‘what is best for me’ to ‘what is best for everyone.’ It embraces everything which brings a people together: common purpose, shared values, ideas which help us to look beyond our limited individual horizons.”
And, the Pope added, “Freedom is always the best environment for thinkers, civic associations and the communications media to carry our their activities with passion and creativity in service of the common good.”
The Holy Father again emphasized the importance of the family, warning against “ideological colonization.”
He noted threats to the family ranging from domestic violence and alcoholism to unemployment, the abandonment of the elderly, and children left to the streets.
“These problems often meet with pseudo-solutions which show the clear effects of an ideological colonization… So many social problems are quietly resolved in the family; the failure to assist families would leave those who are most vulnerable without protection.”
Acknowledging the various challenges facing his host country, the Pope said: “Bolivia is at an historic crossroads: politics, the world of culture, the religions are all part of this beautiful challenge to grow in unity. In this land whose history has been marred by exploitation, greed and so many forms of selfishness and sectarianism, now is the time for integration.”
Tomorrow, in Santa Cruz, the Pope will celebrate a 10 am Mass in Christ the Redeemer Square.
On Friday, he flies to Paraguay.
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