Homily by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna
Brothers and sisters, “let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; pursue hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:9-18).
May these words of our father, the Apostle St Paul, convey good wishes to each and every one of you at the beginning of your important service to the nation, to our country, to the Republic. Today, cherished Members of Parliament, you take a solemn oath to form part of the highest institution in our country; an institution that represents our people and is duty-bound to provide laws that are expressions of rationality, order and the common good. I wish you well in your work and may your endeavours be an expression of the political love that was proclaimed most prophetically by His Holiness Pope Francis in his encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti.
I would like to take a cue from the extraordinary experience that we went through a few weeks ago when Pope Francis was among us and recall the wise words that he shared specifically before the nation’s highest authorities where, in the Grand Council Chamber at the Grand Master’s Palace, he addressed civil society. He reminded us of our country’s extraordinary heritage and asked us to truly be a laboratory of social justice, social peace and an example of sound social coexistence.
That day, the 2nd of April, the Pope said: “To ensure a sound social coexistence, however, it is not enough to strengthen the sense of belonging; there is a need to shore up the foundations of life in society, which rests on law and legality. Honesty, justice, a sense of duty and transparency are the essential pillars of a mature civil society. May your commitment to eliminate illegality and corruption be strong, like the north wind that sweeps the coasts of this country. May you always cultivate legality and transparency, which will enable the eradication of corruption and criminality, neither of which acts openly and in broad daylight”.
The Pope reminded us of our country’s extraordinary heritage and asked us to truly be a laboratory of social justice, social peace and an example of sound social coexistence.
The Pope shared extraordinary words on the mission of the politician, and I would like to quote the wisdom of His Holiness Pope Francis from the encyclical Fratelli Tutti and present it to you today for your consideration and reflection. Pope Francis says: “Recognising that all people are our brothers and sisters, and seeking forms of social friendship that include everyone, is not merely utopian,” a dream, something unattainable. “It demands a decisive commitment to devising effective means to this end. Any effort along these lines becomes a noble exercise of charity. For whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the ‘field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity’. This entails working for a social and political order whose soul is social charity. Once more, I appeal,’ the Pope says, “for a renewed appreciation of politics as ‘a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good’” (Fratelli Tutti, 180).
“For many people today, politics is a distasteful word, often due to the mistakes, corruption and inefficiency of some politicians. There are also attempts to discredit politics, to replace it with economics or to twist it to one ideology or another. Yet can our world function without politics?” asks the Pope. “Can there be an effective process of growth towards universal fraternity and social peace without a sound political life?’ (Fratelli Tutti, 176). Obviously, Pope Francis’ answer is ‘no’. We need politics and we need political parties made up of people with a determination to act. “What is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.” Pope Francis talks of “‘healthy politics … capable of reforming and coordinating institutions, promoting best practices and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic inertia’. We cannot expect economics to do this, nor can we allow economics to take over the real power of the State” (Fratelli Tutti, 177).
How much love did I put into my work? What did I do for the progress of our people? What mark did I leave on the life of society? What real bonds did I create? What positive forces did I unleash? How much social peace did I sow? What good did I achieve in the position that was entrusted to me?Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 197
The Pope says: “In the face of many petty forms of politics focused on immediate interests, I would repeat that ‘true statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the work of nation-building’, much less in forging a common project for the human family, now and in the future. Thinking of those who will come after us does not serve electoral purposes, yet it is what authentic justice demands” (Fratelli Tutti, 178).
Pope Francis distinguishes between love ‘elicited’ out of a sense of urgency — someone falls ill in the street and you feel the urge to help, since charity is a virtue intrinsic to all and that we ought not to give up on, and you help the person — but there is also a ‘commanded’ love and charity. What does the Pope say? These are his beautiful words of wisdom: “It is an act of charity to assist someone suffering, but it is also an act of charity, even if we do not know that person, to work to change the social conditions that caused his or her suffering”.
There are good people, good Samaritans, who respond immediately in an emergency, but the politician thinks long-term and seeks the root cause of that suffering and addresses it. Pope Francis illustrates this with two delightful examples: “If someone helps an elderly person cross a river, that is a fine act of charity. The politician, on the other hand, builds a bridge, and that too is an act of charity. While one person can help another by providing something to eat, the politician creates a job for that other person, and thus practises a lofty form of charity that ennobles his or her political activity” (Fratelli Tutti, 186).
Pope Francis says: “Political charity is also expressed in a spirit of openness to everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, 190). Brothers and sisters, I consider the Pope’s words as encouragement to us to overcome the tribal mentality — you and us, them and us — we may not accomplish this in one day. I hope that it will be accomplished in a century, but all of us, including myself, ought to work towards this in our daily lives here and now.
I hope and pray that through your commitment and dedication, Malta may continue to develop into an environment where we truly bear witness to respect and freedom, where we learn to live side by side despite our differences, and where our progress may truly be the promotion of the common good
Finally, politics should not shy away from tenderness, from kindness. Pope Francis tells us: “Politics too must make room for a tender love of others”. Even in politics there is room for tenderness. Many times the words we exchange are harsh but “‘What is tenderness? It is love that draws near and becomes real. A movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands […] Tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women’. Amid the daily concerns of political life, ‘the smallest, the weakest, the poorest should touch our hearts: indeed, they have a ‘right’ to appeal to our heart and soul. They are our brothers and sisters, and as such we must love and care for them’” (Fratelli Tutti, 194).
“Good politics combines love with hope” (Fratelli Tutti, 196). “Viewed in this way,” Pope Francis says, “politics is something more noble than posturing, marketing and media spin. These sow nothing but division, conflict and a bleak cynicism incapable of mobilising people to pursue a common goal. At times, in thinking of the future, we do well to ask ourselves, ‘Why am I doing this? What is my real aim?’ For as time goes by, reflecting on the past,” Pope Francis says, “the questions will not be: ‘How many people endorsed me? How many voted for me? How many had a positive image of me?’ The real, and potentially painful, questions will be, ‘How much love did I put into my work? What did I do for the progress of our people? What mark did I leave on the life of society? What real bonds did I create? What positive forces did I unleash? How much social peace did I sow? What good did I achieve in the position that was entrusted to me?’” (Fratelli Tutti, 197).
I end with the special recognition that Pope Francis gave to our dear country when he reflected on his experience among us in the General Audience on Wednesday 6th April 2022: “Malta represents the rights and power of the ‘small’ nations, small but rich in history and civilisation that should lead toward another logic — that of respect and freedom — the logic of respect and also the logic of freedom, of the coexistence of differences, opposed to the colonisation of the most powerful”.
At the beginning of this legislature, I hope and pray that through your commitment and dedication, Malta may continue to develop into an environment where we truly bear witness to respect and freedom, where we learn to live side by side despite our differences, and where our progress may truly be the promotion of the common good.
✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta