POPE Francis in his September 16 homily which is given daily at Santa Marta has called the faithful to be actively involved in politics. Of course, there are volumes of Church documents saying so, especially after the Second Vatican Council—and even hereabouts, the Philippines bishops said the same but rather more categorically in their Pastoral Exhortation on Philippines Politics and in the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II)
But Pope Francis in all simplicity and candor said it seemingly bereft of any theological jargon and rhetoric. He rejected the idea that “a good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.” That is not a good path, he said, because “a good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern…that they can govern well, that they can love their people, that they can serve their people, that they can be humble.”
Citing the Social Doctrine of the Church, he said that politics “is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good.” Which is why, he said, one cannot just shrug it off since every citizen is responsible for participating in politics according to his/her ability.
Reflecting on the Gospel about the centurion (Lk 7:1-10) who humbly and confidently asked for the healing of his servant, the Holy Father talked about the role of those who hold political power, stressing the need for humility and love. “A leader who doesn’t love, cannot govern—at best they can discipline, they can give a little bit of order, but they can’t govern… and every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best paths? If you don’t ask these questions, your governance will not be good… The man or woman who governs—who loves his people is a humble man or women.”
This, indeed, is the best way to look at politics—that it is one of the highest form of charity because its objective is the common good. But hereabouts, this perspective is not in the politician’s dictionary. In the Philippines politics is, to borrow the bishops’ statement, “possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving of full human development.” Sadly, it has been culturally debased into the characterizations of the underworld: patronage, racketeering and organized thievery.