October 2, 2015

Editorial

Pope Francis calls us to communion, not division

In his message to families gathered in Philadelphia on Sept. 27 for the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis said, “May our children find in us models of communion not division.” In a very real way, this is the same message he delivered everywhere he travelled in the United States to every group he met.

We are called to communion, not division, in family life. “We learn many virtues in our Christian families,” the pope said. “Above all, we learn to love, asking nothing in return.” Love and forgiveness unite families. Selfishness and sin tear families apart.

Families today are challenged, and broken, as perhaps never before. Healing and hope are possible, the pope told us, but only if we open our hearts to Jesus Christ and allow his love and mercy to fill our lives. “When everything falls apart,” the Holy Father said, “only one thing sustains our hope: God loves us, he loves everyone!”

We are called to communion, not division, in our politics. A recent cartoon by Mike Smith in the Las Vegas Sun depicts with cynicism the momentary unity achieved by Pope Francis’ Sept. 24 address to the U.S. Congress which he depicts as being followed by business as usual—bickering and animosity resulting in fragmentation and gridlock. It’s one thing to invoke the Golden Rule, but it’s quite another to practice it in the day-to-day affairs of government!

“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics,” the pope told our nation’s leaders. “A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”

Care for the people—especially the most vulnerable—this should unite us above all else. We can only hope that the cartoonist is wrong, that Pope Francis’ words will have more than a temporary effect on our leaders’ pursuit of the common good.

We are called to communion, not division, in the welcome and assistance we give to strangers, those who come to this great land seeking a better life for their families.

“Many of you came to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life,” the pope said. “Do not feel discouraged by all the challenges and hardships you might face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this new nation of yours. Please: do not feel ever ashamed of your traditions.”

Calling himself “the son of immigrants” who came to the American continent seeking liberty and prosperity, Pope Francis reminded immigrants of their essential dignity and of their giftedness. “Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which can bring an enrichment to life of this American land,” the pope said. “You are also called to be responsible citizens. You are called to be responsible citizens and to contribute, like others, with so much resilience before you—to contribute fruitfully to the life of the communities in which you live.”

And while he encouraged immigrants, he challenged the rest of us to recall that every one of us is an immigrant, the descendants of those who came to this land from far away. Here, too, the Golden Rule should be practiced, and we should only treat immigrants and their families as we would wish to be treated in similar circumstances!

We are called to communion, not division, in the life of the Church. Regardless of the momentary fervor, the crowds and the media coverage, the pastoral visit of the Bishop of Rome to the Church in the United States of America will not be a success unless it unites us where we have been divided.

Squabbles over Church discipline are like the arguments (even “plate throwing”) in families. We should disagree, make noise and give vent to our anger. Then we should calm down. Forgive one another. And continue as sisters and brothers in Christ. After all, we are called to communion, not division, in the Body of Christ.

In his column last week, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin wished Pope Francis “a warm Hoosier welcome” on behalf of all of us in the state of Indiana. Let’s pray that the spirit of welcome—and unity—which was so evident during his pastoral visit last week remains long after the pope’s return to Rome.

—Daniel Conway

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