ANALYSIS: Globalizing Indifference

Pope Francis Appeals for Solidarity

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The celebration of World Peace Day by the Church on January 1 is a time to reflect not only on the present but also on the year ahead. In his message for this day Pope Francis urged all to be more concerned about the welfare of others.

As on a number of previous occasions the Pope used the phrase the “globalization of indifference” as the focus of his reflections regarding our obligations toward the wider world. He appealed for a greater awareness of our interdependence and to be concerned for our brothers and sisters who are vulnerable.

Without our common fellowships with other humans, who like us are created in God’s image and likeness, we would be less human, Pope Francis warned.

Indifference is not something new, the Pontiff admitted, but in today’s world it is broader, globalized.

There are different kinds of indifference the Pope explained. The first is toward God, as a result of a false humanism and materialism.

“We feel self-sufficient, prepared not only to find a substitute for God but to do completely without him. As a consequence, we feel that we owe nothing to anyone but ourselves, and we claim only rights,” noted Pope Francis in his message (n. 3).

The second is indifference toward our neighbors, which can manifest itself in various ways. We may be well-informed about world events, but at the same time without any personal engagement. In part this can be due to the overload of information that leads to a numbing of our sensibilities.

Lives of comfort

Another manifestation of indifference is a lack of concern for others. “Some people prefer not to ask questions or seek answers; they lead lives of comfort, deaf to the cry of those who suffer. Almost imperceptibly, we grow incapable of feeling compassion for others and for their problems; we have no interest in caring for them, as if their troubles were their own responsibility, and none of our business,” Pope Francis explained (n. 3).

Indifference toward God and neighbor can prolong situations of injustice that in turn will result in conflicts or insecurity. “Indifference can even lead to justifying deplorable economic policies which breed injustice, division and violence for the sake of ensuring the wellbeing of individuals or nations,” the Pope warned (n. 4).

He then contrasted this indifference to the solidarity with humanity that Jesus demonstrated. He not only took our flesh, but he also taught the crowds, fed the hungry and helped those in need.

“We too, then, are called to make compassion, love, mercy and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another,” the Pope said.

Solidarity, he explained, quoting Pope St John Paul II, is a firm commitment to the common good and is a moral and social attitude.

As St John Paul II explained in his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis solidarity enables us to see the other not merely as an instrument but as our neighbor and is a vital part of being able to achieve world peace.

“In the light of faith, solidarity seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimension of total gratuity, forgiveness and reconciliation,” the encyclical explained (n. 40).

Solidarity is then, St John Paul II observed, a Christian virtue and has as its model the example of the life of the Trinity, three persons in one God.

Interior renewal

Challenging the globalization of indifference was also a central point in Pope Francis’ Lenten message.

We need an interior renewal and to listen to the voice of the prophets in order to overcome the tendency to withdraw into ourselves, the Pope urged. God’s love, which we witness in the example of Jesus, enables us to offer our service to others.

This love, should Pope Francis said, be universal so that we will shall not fail to see the Lazarus who sits by our doors.

We can do this through our prayers, uniting ourselves to others here on Earth and to the saints in Heaven in a communion of love through which indifference is conquered.

In addition, every Christian community is called to engage in society and to be missionary, especially with the poor and those far away.

Pope Francis invited people to a conversion of heart and to form a merciful heart, which does not mean a weak heart, but rather a strong and steadfast heart, open to God. “A heart which lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis commented (n. 3).

In his homily on July 8, 2013, during a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, home to many refugees fleeing North Africa, Pope Francis recalled God’s words, “Cain, where is your brother?”

This is not a question directed to others, but to each one of us, he insisted, as he explained the need to overcome the culture of indifference.

Pope Francis, no doubt, wishes us to reflect on how different this year which is just starting could be if the globalization of indifference can be overcome by the virtue of solidarity.

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Fr. John Flynn

Australia Bachelor of Arts from the University of New South Wales. Licence in Philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Bachelor of Arts in Theology from the Queen of the Apostles.

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