It was the first time a Pope joined the American Congress and the first time the Vatican flag was raised at the UN. Francis’ journey will be remembered as a record, but this is not where the greatness of the event resides. It is due to the strength of the messages and the clearness of his declarations that we discover the importance of Pope’s words. The relativism of modern society is light years away from the position of Peter’s successor; the political jargon which is so popular in international diplomacy was humiliated by the concepts expressed during his peregrination between the two Americas. As Jesus in the “Sermon on the mount” (But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil), Francis has said “yes, yes; no, no” on each topic, even the most vexing. No to weapons trafficking was said fearlessly in the European Parliament, that is closest in the world to the lobby of this sector. No to death penalty, a concept strongly asserted in the country which claims to be the exporter of democracy and which still makes use of State murder as a punitive method.
The Holy Father did not have to raise his voice. His tone has always been deliberately low, focused, and attentive; it is the strength of the things he said that made his words deflagrate in the world. As when he talked about family, at a time when it is under attack: “A society grows strong and well – he said – if it is built on the foundation of family”… “We defend family, because what is at stake, is our future”. And family, for a Catholic, is the union of a man and a woman; no ifs and buts. Then, again the unequivocal words addressed to the powerful of the Earth during his speech at the UN. The destruction of the environment that contributes to the culture of waste. The protection of the last against human trafficking, sex commerce, organ trade, and exploitation. Indiscriminate weapons and drugs trafficking; the need to apply the fundamental human rights such as the one to a decent job, a home, food, education, and the right to freely profess one’s religious belief. An actual working agenda, with the urgent need to move from words to facts, eluding the temptation of hypocrisy, “symbolic nominalism that has an appeasing effect on our conscience”.
Francis did not spare even the Church. Firstly, by praising secular figures, that are too often considered marginal at higher levels, and then – the hardest and the most difficult position of all – the terrible scourge of pedophilia: he expressed “shame” and stated that “those crimes cannot be kept in secret for a long time”. And finally, the words everyone was waiting for and which he had the courage to say without hesitation and without beating around the bush: “I promise that all those responsible for sexual abuse of minors will be punished”.
The most powerful people of the planet will have to reflect on the Pope’s admonitions, but even more so on the responsibilities each one of them should have due to their role. Pope’s example is clear, his teaching is evident, the perspective is tangible: the time of hypocrisies has come to an end.