Pope Francis celebrates three years of pontificate during the Jubilee of Mercy. But how does Bergoglio envisage this aspect of Christian life? Father Antonio Spadaro, one of the Pope’s closest people and Director of La Civilta Cattolica, described the diplomacy of mercy and compassion as a political process. Yet, how does one translate a category of the Spirit into Politics? On closer examination, it sounds like an oxymoron, but that is exactly where the Holy Father teaches us to comprehend the signs of the times, embodying a concrete and positive geopolitical intelligence, and guiding the relations between different States from an “advantaged” position, that of mercy.
“Bergoglio never considers people or things to be lost,” says Father Spadaro explaining the Francis’ intentions: He wants to reopen the margins of determinism. Thus, the Church becomes concretely the mother of peoples, even of those traditionally branded as enemies. Bergoglio always describes the signs “he” feel: that is the key to read the opening of the Holy Door in Bangui before time. Central Africa had been taken aback by a massacre of Christians, which occurred a few days before the beginning of the Jubilee and transformed the city into the “spiritual capital of the world” – as the Pope stated.
Yes, because that is precisely where God speaks: in historic events, be they ugly or beautiful, and it is in the latter that His breath caresses, cures, and heals.
Thus, the Pope travels there to touch the wounds of the Church. He does not lend himself to those who want to emphasize the differences between Christians and Muslims in terms of good and evil. No. That it is the dominion of interests, the idea of the so-called clash of civilizations, but the Church is called to something different, as Francis has demonstrated. He goes on his apostolic journeys: with kindness, with a heart that neither approves nor condemns, but open to meet the other with intelligent empathy, a characteristic for which he is loved also by non-believers. If we look back at his international relations, we will be inevitably struck by the many steps he has taken: with apparent simplicity, he has received Iranian President Rohani: “I hope for peace”, Bergoglio said at the end of the meeting, “Please, pray for me” Rohani asked Bergoglio; the Pope has released the first historic interview on China and on the Chinese people, “China is a blessed land from many points of view and the Catholic Church has the duty to respect every civilization. The Church has great potential to receive culture,” he said; the first Latin American Pope in history, he encouraged the resumption of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana 54 years later; then there was the meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill: “we have found ourselves with joy, like brothers in Christian faith who have met to “talk face to face”, from heart to heart, and discuss the mutual relations between our Churches”, reads the joint statement.
He wants to be called the Pope of the suburbs, to emphasize that the Church belongs to the weak and the last, people he goes to visit and touch: the elderly, the sick, and disadvantaged countries: they are Francis’ interlocutors and that is his service. In so doing, the Pope empties the rhetoric of Christianity seen as an empire, albeit a good one: there are no good powers anymore because they would be powers anyway and would always lead to conflicts with an enemy. No, there is openness, encounter, service (or diakonia, to put it in ecclesiastical terms).
In this scenario, there is no room for prophecies about the end of the world: explained Lucio Caraccio in his editorial on the latest issue of Limes, “Francis’ geopolitics scrutinizes the obscure signs of the times not in order to accept them, but to understand and, as far as possible, subvert them. The third world war will not come. If we do not want it to happen.
It is curious that Francis has become an interlocutor of the world and of international relations, which are relations in the first place for him: between people, worlds, and interpretations. How does he do it? He simply embraces the deep spirit of Christian faith: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another (Jn 13, 34), and else: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5, 44). Pope Francis, like any other good priest, is interested in people: here is his gentle slap in the face of the politicians who are led by short-sighted strategies and forgetting that they are dealing with human beings.