“We are speaking out today because we love our Country and we are worried about the present situation.” These are the opening words of the French bishops’ “Letter” to “the inhabitants of our Country”, titled: “In a changing world we ought to recover the meaning of politics.” The challenging document is divided into 10 paragraphs in which the French Episcopate carefully examines problematic issues that are putting a strain on the life of the Country, namely, economic crisis and recession, social tensions, unemployment and feelings of injustice, cultural diversity and integration, youth and Jihadist drifts, education and the question of security.
The bishops wrote: “One has to be deaf and blind indeed not to realize the fatigue, frustration, fear and anger felt by a large part of the inhabitants of our country who express a strong desire for change. One has to be indifferent and insensitive indeed not to be touched by situations of precariousness and exclusion experienced by many people living on our national territory.”
Monsignor Pascal Delannoy is a member of the Permanent Council, serving as bishop in one of the most heated “peripheries” in Paris, Saint-Denis. With the publication of this document – he said – the bishops intend to prompt “a profound reflection on the role of politics in contemporary society.” The bishops’ criticism to this regard is extremely strong. For its nature and vocation – the bishops wrote – the political realm is called to work for the “common good”, to “give priority to general – and not to partisan – interests.” The bishops argue against politics that are hostage to “boundless ambitions, electoral manoeuvres and strategies, unfulfilled promises, visions that are disconnected from reality, lack of planning and of long-term projects, partisan and demagogic behaviours.”
The document appears to contain a warning for the near future, given the upcoming presidential elections in France. The first round of elections is scheduled to take place in several months, next April 23rd. A runoff voting, if necessary, is tabled for May 7. “Our document – pointed out Msgr. Delannoy – paves the way to the upcoming presidential elections but its relevance remains fully valid notwithstanding the election. In fact, it’s an invitation to rediscover the true meaning of politics that must envision a project. Only those with a far-sighted vision of society can meet people’s expectations and overcome the many paradoxes currently experienced by French society as a whole.”
“When we meet people – the bishop said – we perceive a great thrust of generosity and a deep yearning to participate in mobilisation initiatives. Unfortunately the political realm – ever more focused on economic and financial problems, incapable of responding to people’s deepest needs – fails to grasp these expectations.”
The question doesn’t only involve France. The political standstill is widespread throughout world countries. For the French bishops the political crisis is first of all a crisis in speech, that far too often turns into “slander and corruption”, in these conditions, they underline in the text:
“an ever narrower divide separates those who lost confidence in politics and are uninterested in public life and those who, full of anger, are allured by extremisms.”
“It’s the paradox of living in a society marked by a wide range of means of communication but where people find it increasingly difficult to communicate with each other. People seem to be no longer able to engage in dialogue, to exchange their views, to talk, while differences of opinion and thought instead of being listened to escalate into heated arguments.”
The way out is an open yard where everyone is called to give his contribution: “each person, to the extent to which he/she is concerned, is responsible for the life and the future of our society, which requires a great amount of courage and determination. These qualities have always been cherished in the heart of our Country”, the bishops wrote. They concluded: “The real solutions to the serious problems of our times won’t stem from economic and financial recovery – notwithstanding its importance – nor from individual gestures or behaviours. The solutions will come from listening to man’s deepest needs, at individual and collective level alike, and from everyone’s commitment”, the bishops concluded.