In his recent Apostolic journey to Chile and Peru Pope Francis visited the Female Penitentiary of Santiago, demonstrating once again that the last and the excluded are always at the centre of his attention. In fact they encompass the style of the Gospel, the Good News proclaimed in a privileged manner to the socially-excluded at all times. It is the Gospel that Pope Francis tirelessly proclaims and spreads “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Ts 1:5), and that is why his message reverberates in the heart of people of all faiths, leading them to “extend” their hand to their fellow others, to tell them, as Jesus did, “get up”, lift yourself up from desperation, anguish, pain, and recover your hope.
The dream of Pope Francis is an inclusive and solidarity-based society
Based on a powerful idea of “dignity” that does not depend on our physical or psychological conditions, nor on contingent situations, but on the fact that we all belong to the human family, we are human beings. This radical equality represents an inclusive anthropological horizon that was not conceived for some individuals alone but for everyone, where the deepest meaning of human condition is also to be found in the experience of suffering, failure, marginalization since we are called to love the human person – that deserves protection and respect – not his mistake. True equality stems from this radical recognition of human nature that does not eliminate difference but that is capable of engaging in dialogue and establishing a relationship, enhancing the fragment of beauty and originality that is found in every person.
Equality underlies true justice, one that is not imposed with external laws but that emanates from the awareness that we all belong to the same human family and that we are all the depositaries of the same rights and duties.
This inclusive anthropological horizon, that can be understood by all men and women of good will, is fully realised only in the Gospel of Jesus. This very evangelical humanism is the backdrop of Pope Francis’ proposal, which shields the dignity of every human being from the devious attacks that tend to resurge from the very human heart: prejudice, the simplistic classification of “good” and “bad” people, reductionism of all kinds that “objectify” others, the non-acceptance of limits as a condition of our humaneness.
Thus, living out Gospel humanism requires a change in our gaze. Only a “pure” gaze, one that is void of selfishness and self-interest, and is inhabited by love, is capable of seeing others as siblings. Those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus experience first of all a gaze that is healed, they learn to spread dignity by “contamination”, to care for their own dignity and for that of other people without being afraid to include limits and errors, for they experience the healing balm of forgiveness.
Pope Francis’ inclusive gaze reflects the gaze of many saints of the present and of the past who saw in the poor, in the last and in the needy the essence of true humanism:
the humanism of Saint Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo, whose lifelong commitment was based on respecting others – including those wounded in their body and soul – in the belief that “even those who are small have a right to their small dignity”; that of Saint Giovanni Bosco, Father and teacher of the young, educator who followed the heart of God, for whom “every child, even the most unfortunate, can embody what is good” ; that of Saint Luigi Guanella, creative and gifted interpreter of the Gospels’ inclusive humanism. For him:
“There are people of white colour, others of black colour, others of red colour and others are olive-coloured. And every human face – despite having the same colour – has a truth. However, they all bear the imprint of nobility in the same way”.
This very nobility and dignity constitute the only “equitable” richness that is not purchased with money or through power, but is donated to every human being and can neither be taken or demeaned. It’s a heritage we received and which must not be dissipated. Pope Francis invites us to take care of it, to cherish it and protect it. And, if we want to be true sons and daughters of God, we must ensure that it bears fruits.
(*) Professor of Pedagogical methodology, “Auxilium” Faculty of Education Sciences in Rome