Here is a Vatican translation of Pope Francis’ prepared address this afternoon to representatives of civil society in Paraguay. Though he followed this text, he added several comments off-the-cuff.
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I am pleased to be with you, the representatives of civil society, and to share our hopes and dreams for a better future. I thank Bishop Adalberto Martínez Flores, Secretary of the Paraguay Bishops’ Conference, for his words of welcome in your name.
Seeing all of you together, each coming from his or her own sector or organization within Paraguayan society, each bringing his or her own joys, concerns, struggles and hopes, makes me grateful to God. A people unengaged and listless, passively accepting things as they are, is a dead people. In you, however, I see great vitality and promise. God always blesses this. God is always on the side of those who help to uplift and improve the lives of his children. To be sure, problems and situations of injustice exist. But seeing you and listening to you helps to renew my hope in the Lord who continues to work in the midst of his people. You represent many different backgrounds, situations and aspirations; all together, you make up Paraguayan culture. All of you have a part to play in the pursuit of the common good. “In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable” (Laudato Si’, 158), to see you before me is a real gift.
I also want to thank those of you who prepared the questions. These have enabled me to see above all your commitment to keep working together for the good of the nation.
1. In the first question, I was pleased to hear a young person express concern that society be a place of fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone. Youth is a time of high ideals. It is important that you, the young, realize that genuine happiness comes from working to make a more fraternal world! It comes from realizing that happiness and pleasure are not synonymous. Happiness is demanding, it requires commitment and effort. You are too important to be satisfied with living life under a kind of anasthesia! Paraguay has a large population of young people and this is a great source of enrichment for the nation. So I think that the first thing to do is to make sure that all that energy, that light, does not grow dim in your hearts, and to resist the growing mentality which considers it useless and absurd to aspire to things that demand effort. Be committed to something, be committed to someone. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Don’t be afraid to give the best of yourselves!
But don’t do this alone. Try to talk about these things among yourselves, profit from the lives, the stories and the wisdom of your elders, of your grandparents. “Waste” lots of time listening to all the good things they have to teach you. They are the guardians of that spiritual legacy of faith and values which define a people and illumine its path. Find comfort, too, in the power of prayer, in Jesus. Keep praying to to him daily. He will not disappoint you. Jesus, in the memory of your people, is the secret to keeping a joyful heart in your quest for fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone.
I liked the poem of Carlos Miguel Giménez which Bishop Martínez quoted. I think it sums up very nicely what I have been trying to say, “[I dream of] a paradise free of war between brothers and sisters, rich in men and women healthy in heart and soul… and a God who blesses its dawn”. Yes, God is the guarantee of the dignity of man.
2. The second question spoke about dialogue as a means to advance the project of a fully inclusive nation. Dialogue, we know, is not easy. There are many difficulties to be overcome, and sometimes it seems as if our efforts only make things even harder. Dialogue must be built on something. It presupposes and demands a culture of encounter. An encounter which acknowledges that diversity is not only good, it is necessary. So we cannot start off by thinking that the other person is wrong. The common good is sought by starting from our differences, constantly leaving room for new alternatives. In other words, look for something new. Don’t just take “your own slice of the cake”, but discuss, think, and discover together a better solution for everybody. Many times this culture of encounter can involve conflict. This is logical and even desirable. It is not something we should be afraid of or ignore. Rather, we are called to resolve it. This means that we have to “face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process” (Evangelii Gaudium 227), because “unity is greater than conflict” (ibid., 228). A unity which does not cancel differences, but experiences them in communion through solidarity and understanding. By trying to understand the thinking of others, their experiences, their hopes, we will be able to see more clearly our shared aspirations. This is the basis of encounter: all of us are brothers and sisters, children of the same heavenly Father, and each of us, with our respective cultures, languages and traditions, has much to contribute to the community. True cultures are not closed in on themselves, but called to meet other cultures and to create new realities. Without this essential presupposition, without this basis of fraternity, it will be very difficult to arrive at dialogue. If someone thinks that there are persons, cultures, or situations which are second, third or fourth class… surely things will go badly, because the bare minimum, a recognition of the dignity of the other, is lacking.
3. All this can serve as a way of approaching the concern expressed in the third question. How do we hear the cry of the poor in order to build a more inclusive society? A fundamental part of helping the poor involves the way we see them. An ideological approach is useless: it ends up using the poor in the service of other political or personal interests (Evangelii Gaudium, 199). To really help them, the first thing is for us to be truly concerned for their persons, valuing them for their goodness. Valuing them, however, also means being ready to learn from them. The poor have much to teach us about humanity, goodness and sacrifice. As Christians, we have an additional reason to love and serve the poor; for in them we see the face and the flesh of Christ, who made himself poor so to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).
Certainly every country needs economic growth and the creation of wealth, and the extension of these to each citizen, without exclusion. But the creation of this wealth must always be at the service of the common good, and not only for the benefit of a few. On this point we must be clear. For “the worship of the ancient golden calf (cf.Ex32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Those charged with promoting economic development have the responsibility of ensuring that it always has a human face. They have in their hands the possibility of providing employment for many persons and in this way of giving hope to many families. Work is a right and it bestows dignity. Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and an education – these are essential for human dignity, and business men and women, politicians, economists, must feel challenged in this regard. I ask them not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit. In economics, in business and in politics, what counts first and foremost is the human person and the environment in which he or she lives.
Paraguay is rightly known throughout the world for being the place where the Reductions began. These were among the most significant experiences of evangelization and social organization in history. There the Gospel was the soul and the life of communities which did not know hunger, unemployment, illiteracy or oppression. This historical experience shows us that, today too, a more humane society is possible. Where there is love of people and a willingness to serve them, it is possible to create the conditions necessary for everyone to have access to basic goods, so that no one goes without.
Dear friends, it is a great pleasure to see the number and variety of associations sharing in the creation of an ever more prosperous Paraguay. I see you as a great symphony, each one with his or her own specificity and richness, yet all working together towards a harmonious end. That is what counts.
Love your country, your fellow citizens, and, above all, love the poor. In this way, you will bear witness before the world that another model of development is possible. I am convinced that you possess the greatest strength of all: your humanity, your faith, your love.
I ask Our Lady of Caacupé, our Mother, to watch over you and protect you, and to encourage you in all your efforts. God bless you.[01180-EN.01] [Original text: Spanish]