Vatican City (Fides Service) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Archbishop of Lima, illustrates for Fides Service the many aspects of the relation between Gospel and Society today.
John Paul II speaks of the virtue of poverty in many documents. First of all he speaks of solidarity which is not giving what you have left over, but sharing all the private goods of each person. When a person possess goods he must not keep them for his own personal benefit, he must let them be used as a tool which produces work, a tool which helps where there is no food, no home, no education, no health. Charity is not an imposed juridical principle; charity is born of God’s love for us and for all mankind and from our response to this love. If the Lord has given us intelligence, a greater number of goods, if he has given us political responsibility, social responsibility, solidarity must lead us to stimulate creative and free participation on the part of everyone.
Love is a forge which produces wonderful initiatives, whereas the coldness of political world often seeks simply votes. In this sad reality poverty is often used as a springboard for political power. The Holy Father underlines the Gospel teaching: “The right hand shall not know what the left hand is doing. What you do unto little ones you do unto me”. In authentic charity there is no political calculation, no economic calculation, there is love, offering, generosity. John Paul II affirms that love is the only respectful and acceptable way in which a person can treat another person, otherwise people are used as objects, as a means for reaching another means.
My words may seem harsh, but many nations, both in poor parts of the world and in rich parts, should examine their conscience: How much corruption do they allow and encourage? Both developed nations through so-called lobbies and less developed with brazen theft.
Very often this combination of theft, corruption, fiddling of statistics, is called poverty to make everyone feel the anguish of the poor, certainly not to solve their problems, but to use them as tools of political strategies. How terrible to think that people living in the streets without food, clothing, are simply political strategies of individuals, governments, institutions which affirm their will to solve the problem of poverty. Instead there exist vast occult “lobbies” which destroy morality through the annihilation of the family, breaking of harmony between parents and children, brazen promotion of abortion, genetic manipulation…In many cases there is an economic monopoly which aims to become ever richer to the detriment of poverty.
Reality is hard. We attack not so much Christian businessmen who want to produce and help. We see how also the Church proceeds in the process of education to more responsible consuming: in a world dominated by exasperated consumerism there is no other way to reduce poverty. Very often social pressure through the media tempts poor youth with desires which their parents are unable to satisfy. The media have a serious responsibility: they must be aware that many policies of marketing, integration and globalisation are clearly consumer, imperialist policies, not only at the political level but as an abuse of the integral human dimension.
As Church we are called to respond with greater commitment to the spiritual needs. Many poor people are poor in love, understanding, comfort of prayer they are poor because they have no Religious to give them something to eat, to teach them the Truth, the Truth which liberates. This Truth very often is manipulated for a complete idealisation.
It is sad to see that behind apparently generous polices there is a hidden desire to continue to maltreat the poor. A good part of these policies are born from liberation theology which established the primate of the purely material dimension of the human person, the primate of the political dimension of the human dimension. This concept gives rise to questions which offend a correct interpretation of man: how can they pray when they are so hungry? This is not only a theological offence, it is an offence against God, against the Teaching of the Church. Therefore it is opportune for private and public institutions which have good relations with the Church, to have a clear Christian understanding of the presence of the Church in helping the poor: very often in fact support is given to totally political projects, social leaders, popular leaders, and when the latter are asked for collaboration for programmes of catechism or nutrition, they put as a condition: no Catholic contents.
We are not siding with any religion when we teach people that God loves them, when we teach a woman that she has her dignity and that it must be respected, when we teach politicians that their management of the common good demands a service in truth. A service, which is not their own but for which they have been delegated: the patrimonies they administer in fact belong to the entire community, not to them or to their particular political party.
Spiritual and material development are not contrary to each other. The great Saints were very aware of the need for spiritual and material growth of the person; they all had at heart the service of the poor. Instead there are people who have made their life a sort of social-political leadership which does not derive from love of God and neighbour.
Very often the media steal dignity, honesty, the right to information and produce labels, caricatures, dividing the world in right and left, conservatives and progressives. In this way they disqualify the work that many people do in a silent and wonderful way. Many religious, priests, laity, in silence and with great professional expertise and immense love of neighbour, live an austere life of sacrifice, reaching out to many people: they will never manipulate their work politically, nevertheless very often they are not given they help they deserve, very often they find themselves faced with the epidemic of theology of liberation and consumerism, modern materialism, which makes the purely earthly and material dimension the definition of man.
I believe the time has come to be faithful to the words and the extraordinary witness of John Paul II: the time has come to understand better his teaching, to see the love with which he draws close to the poorest of the poor and with what effectiveness he draws near to rich people to help the poor. Hence the Church’s service to the poor will never be political; it will be implementing the Sermon on the Mount, following the Gospel. We are speaking of detachment, austerity, sobriety, and of love: this is the key word. We must react with firmness when we find qualified persons who, perhaps unwittingly, with no bad intention, let themselves be dragged by today’s current which wants to reduce mankind to a purely earthly, material dimension.
May the poverty of the Holy Family help us to see with creativity the marvellous initiatives which are bringing help to the poor, never allowing the poor to be manipulated at the service of a political ideology, and may it help us to follow more closely the splendid teaching of John Paul II. (Fides Service 18/9/2003 EM lines 90 Words: 1201)