Pope Francs on How We Can Respond to the Retreat from Democracy

Photo by Anna Kurmaeva on Unsplash

via the Vatican:

Here man first became conscious of being “a political animal” (cf. ARISTOTLE, Politics, I, 2) and, as members of the community, began to see others not subjects but as fellow citizens, with whom to work together in organizing the polis. Here democracy was born. That cradle, thousands of years later, was to become a house, a great house of democratic peoples. I am speaking of the European Union and the dream of peace and fraternity that it represents for so many peoples.

Yet we cannot avoid noting with concern how today, and not only in Europe, we are witnessing a retreat from democracy. Democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all; consequently, it demands hard work and patience. It is complex, whereas authoritarianism is peremptory and populism’s easy answers appear attractive. In some societies, concerned for security and dulled by consumerism, weariness and malcontent can lead to a sort of skepticism about democracy. Yet universal participation is something essential; not simply to attain shared goals, but also because it corresponds to what we are: social beings, at once unique and interdependent.

At the same time, we are also witnessing a skepticism about democracy provoked by the distance of institutions, by fear of a loss of identity, by bureaucracy. The remedy is not to be found in an obsessive quest for popularity, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic promises or in adherence to forms of ideological colonization, but in good politics. For politics is, and ought to be in practice, a good thing, as the supreme responsibility of citizens and as the art of the common good. So that the good can be truly shared, particular attention, I would even say priority, should be given to the weaker strata of society. This is the direction to take. One of Europe’s founding fathers indicated it as an antidote to the polarizations that enliven democracy, but also risk debilitating it. As he said: “There is much talk of who is moving left or right, but the decisive thing is to move forward, and to move forward means to move towards social justice” (A. DE GASPERI, Address in Milan, 23 April 1949)….

From partisanship to participation. This what should motivate our actions on a variety of fronts. I think of the climate, the pandemic, the common market and, above all, the widespread forms of poverty. These are challenges that call for concrete and active cooperation. The international community needs this, in order to open up paths of peace through a multilateralism that will not end up being stifled by excessive nationalistic demands. Politics needs this, in order to put common needs ahead of private interests….

I would like to encourage once again a global, communitarian vision with regard to the issue of migration, and to urge that attention be paid to those in greatest need, so that, in proportion to each country’s means, they will be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated, in full respect for their human rights and dignity. Rather than a present obstacle, this represents a guarantee for a future marked by peaceful coexistence with all those who increasingly are forced to flee in search of a new home and new hope….

God readily sets his signature on human freedom, always and everywhere. It is his greatest gift to us, the gift that, in turn, he values most from us. For God created us to be free, and what most pleases him is that, in freedom, we love him and our neighbour. Laws exist to help make this possible, but also training in responsibility and the growth of a culture of respect.