Every year, for 52 years now, the Holy Father gives a reflection on peace on New Year’s Day as his message for the celebration of the World Day for Peace. This year the message of Pope Francis is entitled: GOOD POLITICS IS AT THE SERVICE OF PEACE.
This is a good reminder for many Christians who think that the Church should keep off from politics. Jesus has come to save the world, and this includes the world of politics. All people of good will agree that politics too need truth, justice, peace and love. Politics is at the service of common good. This shows that politics is to be guided by moral norms. Politics can veer away from the right path either through ignorance, weakness of the character of leaders, or sheer ill will. Hence it too should be saved from abuses, weaknesses and ignorance. It too needs the light of Good News. For this reason no less than the Pope himself speaks of politics and gives it guidance.
Pope Francis wrote: “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.” When properly exercised, politics is a way of loving, which is the core of the message of Christ, and it can bring well-being to the citizens. But when abused, it can create a lot of harm. So the Holy Father continues: “Political office and political responsibility constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.”
When Pope Francis speaks about the virtues that politics should have, he quoted from the “Beatitudes of the Politician” that was proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, who died in 2002. It is to be recalled that this Vietnamese Cardinal had been a prisoner of the Vietcong for 13 years, yet he bore no grudge against his captors and was even a good influence in the concentration camps where he was imprisoned. When assigned to Rome after his release, he became the head of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, so he did a lot of reflection with the whole church on the politics that can bring about peace. Here is his reflection:
“Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.
Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.
Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.
Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.
Blessed be the politician who works for unity.
Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.
Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.
Blessed be the politician who is without fear.”
How I wish that our politicians would have these virtues so that they can be blessed and our people would be happy.
Finally, Pope Francis reminds us that “peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.” So when good politics is at the service of peace it respects and promotes fundamental human rights. May the year 2019, which for our country is an election year, bring us politicians who really serve with the common good in mind, and thus bring about much needed peace to our people.