In the current difficult and tragic situation through which our humanity is going, we urgently need to stop and reflect on the liability of each one of us for the construction of a fabric of values that has crumbled almost entirely. On this path, we may be helped by a great character who has contributed to the social, educational, political, and above all, to the Christian life of Italy: don Luigi Sturzo. As a priest, I feel honored to remember this great person of faith, culture, and passion for Man, starting from the weakest. He had an incredible ability to interact with the different cultural and institutional realities of his time, as well as its social context, in order to form so many young people, men and women, and augment the common good, everyone’s good.
Don Luigi Sturzo, rather than a politician, was a statistician, in the sense of the word De Gasperi endowed it with: “A politician looks at future elections, a statistician – at the generations to come”. His pickaxe for toiling in the vineyard of the Lord was the Gospel. Rules consisted in the beatitudes. This is where the content of his civil action was to be found. Political activity, enlightened by faith in Jesus Christ, meant to him service to Man in his entirety. Therefore, it was a social and at the same time evangelizing mission, a testimony to humanity’s Christian values of freedom, truth, and justice, in the “here and now” of living together in society. In this regard, politics was a “duty” towards Christians for him.
This reminds me of my founder, don Benzi, whom I had the fortune of accompanying for 15 years. He, another great and tireless apostle of charity and Christian formation, who, from many points of view, is probably still little known. Don Oreste was in love with God and Man and had a privileged approach towards the weak and the desperate as well. And so, it comes natural to me to compare these two men of God and humanity.
Don Luigi Sturzo, in his famous speech dating back to January 18, 1919 where the most significant political event since Italian Unification was taking place, from the hotel Santa Chiara in Rome, was throwing the founding charter of the People’s Party with these famous words: “To all the free and strong men, who in this difficult hour feel the high duty to cooperate for their homeland’s greater purposes, without prejudices and preconceptions, we appeal to them, so that, united, they promote together in their entirety the ideals of justice and freedom”. And in yet another moment he said: “If the sense of the divine is missing, everything becomes disfigured: politics becomes means to enrich oneself, economy ends up in theft and fraud, science – in the ovens of Dachau, philosophy – in materialism and Marxism; art falls into prostitution”.
Whereas don Oreste Benzi, just a month before his death, during the CEI social week in Pisa, on October 19, 2007, citing one of Seneca’s thoughts with respect to social disorientation and that of the Catholic world, had said: “I was wondering, as I listened to the wonderful speakers: but how does one concretize the common good? I have seen, think and believe that the enemy – forgive me the use of this word – of the common good are we, the Catholics. What do I mean? Wherever you look, awareness that we are a people, the people of God with a mission of salvation to bring, has been lost, has crumbled, then disappeared… Sectarian interests, the interests of the powerful, the interest of the control room and everything that relates to it has become the practical and implemental conscience. Thus comes into being the betrayal of the Christian revolution… because it lacks common strategies to carry on. Seneca puts it well when he says that the favorable wind is of little use if the sailor does not know where to go. And when the boat remains still for too long, it runs the risk of sinking. Due to inertia, an internal law, that of worthlessness”.
Today, eight years after don Benzi’s speech, I would add to it that also sailors are missing here, and many people seem to be fleeing, betraying the boats of their path, truth, and life: the citizens have lost their trust in politics and institutions. Poverty is growing and there are many new poor. Work is changing, as well as the relationship between employees and employers.
The number of people who are lonely, disoriented, without a future, without a job, without dignity is growing. The sense of belonging to a community, to a human family is vanishing. Problems are growing whereas solutions are shrinking. In particular, we Christians are called to do something more, something extraordinary, for our brothers and sisters who are suffering. We need a building site for a new social construction that will have the courage to attend the school of Jesus.
The time has come for concreteness. We start to listen, as Pope Francis teaches us, to the cry of the poor who are the active and creative subjects of this humanity. We need to start rowing together again, divided no longer, on the boat of Christ and humanity. We are free and strong men, we can make it if we manage to be brave and thus free from the powerful.