I am very pleased to welcome you, the young members of the “Political Fraternity”
of Chemin Neuf. When we met last year, you had asked me to pray for your
participation in the Changemakers event in Budapest. There you experienced
moments of encounter and learning, as well as activities, along with local groups.
The way you participated in this event strikes me as a good method of putting into
practice the genuine meaning of politics, especially for Christians. Politics is
encounter, reflection, action.
Politics is, first and foremost, an art of encounter. Certainly, this encounter consists
of being open to others and accepting their differences as part of a respectful
dialogue. For Christians, however, there is more. Because the Gospel demands that
we love our enemies (cf. Mt 5:44), we cannot rest content with superficial and
formal dialogue, along the lines of the often hostile negotiations between political
parties. Instead, we are called to see political encounters as fraternal encounters,
especially with people who disagree with us. That means regarding our dialogue
partner as a true brother or sister, a beloved son or daughter of God. The art of
encounter, then, begins with changing the way we look at others, with showing
them unconditional acceptance and respect. Without such a change of heart,
politics often risks turning into a violent confrontation, where people try to impose
their own ideas and pursue particular interests over the common good, contrary to
the principle that “unity prevails over conflict” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 226-230).
From a Christian standpoint, politics is also reflection, that is, the devising of a
common project. An eighteenth-century political leader, Edmund Burke, thus told
the electors of Bristol that as a Member of Parliament he would not be limited to
defending their particular interests, but sent in their name to pursue along with
other members of Parliament the interest of the entire country, the general good.
As Christians, we recognize that politics is practiced not only through encounter, but
also through shared reflection in the pursuit of this general good, not simply
through the clash of differing and often opposed interests. In a word, “the whole is
greater than the part” (cf. ibid., 234-237). Our own compass for advancing this
common project is the Gospel, which brings to the world a profoundly positive
vision of humanity as loved by God.
Finally, politics is also action. I am pleased that your Fraternity is not satisfied to be
merely a forum for discussion and exchange, but is also directing you to concrete
forms of commitment. As Christians, we must always be realistic, confronting our
ideas with hard reality, lest we build on sands that sooner or later end up shifting.
Let us not forget that “realities are more important than ideas” (cf. ibid., 231-233).
In this regard, I encourage your efforts on behalf of migrants and ecology. I have
also learned that some of you have chosen to live together in a working-class
quarter of Paris, in order to listen to the voices of the poor: that is a Christian way
of engaging in political life! Don’t forget these things, that realities are more
important than ideas: politics cannot be practiced with ideology. That the whole is
greater than the part, and that unity prevails over conflict. Always seek unity and
do not get lost in conflict. […]