Politics is the art of fraternal encounter

The Pope received around 80 members of the political fraternity of the Chemin Neuf Community in the Clementine room of the Apostolic Palace on Monday 16 May. In front of these young people aged 18 to 35, the Bishop of Rome developed a political program in the Christian sense of the term, organized around the following triptych: meeting, reflection, action.

What is the meaning of politics for Christians? The Sovereign Pontiff nourished his reflection around three axes: politics as encounter, reflection and action.

First, politics or the art of encounter: “This encounter is experienced by welcoming others by accepting their differences, in a respectful dialogue,” noted the Bishop of Rome.

“Love your political enemies”

As a Christian, however, there is more. Since the Gospel commands “to love our enemies”, we cannot be satisfied “with a superficial and formal dialogue, like those often hostile negotiations between political parties”, remarked the Pope. The political encounter must be a fraternal encounter, especially with those who least agree with us, “which means seeing in the one with whom we dialogue a true brother, and a beloved son of God”. This art of meeting begins with a change of outlook on the other, with a welcome and “unconditional” respect for their person.

If this change of heart does not take place, politics risks being transformed into an often violent confrontation to make one’s ideas triumph, into a search for particular interests rather than the common good: against the principle that “unity prevails over the conflict” (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 226-230), warned the Successor of Peter.

“The whole is greater than the part”

From the Christian point of view, politics is also reflection, that is to say the formulation of a common project. In the 18th century, the Irish politician and philosopher Edmund Burke thus explained to the voters of the city of Bristol that he could not be content to defend their particular interests, but rather that he was sent on their behalf to work out with the other members of Parliament a vision for the good of the whole country, for the common good.

As Christians, we therefore understand that politics, after the meeting, continues through a reflection in common, in search of this general good, and not simply by the confrontation of contradictory and often opposing interests“, pointed out the Saint- Dad. In short, “the whole is greater than the part”, and its compass is the Gospel.

The reality, more important than the idea

Last but not least, politics is also action. The Pope underlined the importance, as Christians, of confronting one’s ideas “with the depth of reality“, “if we do not want to build on quicksand which always ends up slipping away one day“. Let us not forget that “the reality is more important than the idea”, he affirmed, welcoming the commitment of these young people in favor of migrants and ecology, and congratulating some of them for having chose to live together in the heart of a working-class district of Paris in order to listen to the poor.

This is a Christian way of doing politics!” exclaimed the Pope, then quoting Pius XI, who considered politics “the highest form of charity”.