In his message for the 13th annual Festival of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pope Francis invites Catholic lay men and women to help others through intelligent and loving engagement.
By Christopher Wells
Italy’s annual Festival of the Social Doctrine of the Church opened in Verona on Friday, focusing this year on the theme “#soci@ally free” (#soci@lmente liberi).
The “at” sign in the theme highlights issues that are increasingly relevant in today’s world, the Pope said, especially the digital culture, which has a profound influence on personal and societal relationships.
It indicates closeness and contact with others, and is “an intimate expression of freedom to be ‘preserved’ in one’s heart,” the Pope explained.
He noted that social media should not be a “trap” we fall into, but rather should aim at preserving “a communion of free people.”
The authority of personal involvement
Recalling the Gospel account of the multiplication of loaves and fishes, Pope Francis highlighted Jesus’ teaching. The Lord’s teachings, he emphasized, are demanding, but come to us with the authority of One who is personally involved—the face and the Word of the Father—in the midst of life’s difficulty.
Jesus’ communication is true, the Pope continued, precisely because it is inspired by love for those who hear Him.
Pope Francis noted that after teaching the people, Jesus provided for their needs out of concern for “the whole person, that is, the person in his or her integrity.”
Loving and intelligent engagement
At the same time, Jesus does not act alone, the Pope said, but involves His disciples, who are likewise called to enter into “His logic of personal involvement.”
The Pope insisted that “there is no evangelical gift that does not include a bit of the giver himself,” adding that “this is the freedom to which the disciple is called: that of engaging intelligently and lovingly to help others.”
Pope Francis concluded his message with the hope that those taking part in the Festival “might be able to translate the hashtag ‘soci@lmente’” into action, working intelligently to promote “actions and initiatives for the common good.”