This is the second installment about Pope Francis II ‘s encyclical, released yesterday, Evangelii Gaudium. The entire third section of the document is about ” The Common Good and Peace in Society.”

217. We have spoken at length about joy and love, but the word of God also speaks about the fruit of peace (cf. Gal 5:22).

(The reference is to the New Testament Book of Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” The Spirit referred to here is the Holy Spirit, and the fruits are considered attributes of God that manifest themselves in the faithful. )

218. Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence resulting from the domination of one part of society over others. Nor does true peace act as a pretext for justifying a social structure which silences or appeases the poor, so that the more affluent can placidly support their lifestyle while others have to make do as they can. Demands involving the distribution of wealth, concern for the poor and human rights cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority. The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised.

(Or, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Also important here is that he speaks of peace in society and not just of inner/personal peace. )

219. Nor is peace “simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day towards the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect justice among men”. In the end, a peace which is not the result of integral development will be doomed; it will always spawn new conflicts and various forms of violence.

(He’s quoting Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967) Or, as Paul said with more pizzazz, “If you want peace work for justice.”)

220. People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens, not as a mob swayed by the powers that be. Let us not forget that “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation”. Yet becoming a people demands something more. It is an ongoing process in which every new generation must take part: a slow and arduous effort calling for a desire for integration and a willingness to achieve this through the growth of a peaceful and multifaceted culture of encounter.

(Here he’s quoting the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pastoral Letter Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship (November 2007)

221. Progress in building a people in peace, justice and fraternity depends on four principles related to constant tensions present in every social reality. These derive from the pillars of the Church’s social doctrine, which serve as “primary and fundamental parameters of reference for interpreting and evaluating social phenomena”. In their light I would now like to set forth these four specific principles which can guide the development of life in society and the building of a people where differences are harmonized within a shared pursuit. I do so out of the conviction that their application can be a genuine path to peace within each nation and in the entire world.

(The four pillars of which he speaks are: (1) Time is greater than space (2) Unity prevails over conflict (3) Realities are more important than ideas and (4) The whole is greater than the part. Over the next four posts we’ll address each one of those.)

The Pope speaks of a prophetic voice, and here he gives an indication that he is, indeed one of those voices.


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