The Bible says that whoever finds a friend has found a treasure.
I would like to invite everyone to go beyond their groups of friends and build social friendship, which is so necessary for living together well.
We especially need to have a renewed encounter with the most impoverished and vulnerable, those on the peripheries. And we need to distance ourselves from populisms that exploit the anguish of the people without providing solutions, proposing a mystique that solves nothing.
We must flee from social enmity which only destroys, and leave “polarization” behind.
And this isn’t always easy, especially today when part of our politics, society and media are bent on creating enemies so as to defeat them in a game of power.
Dialogue is the path to seeing reality in a new way, so we can live with passion the challenges we face in constructing the common good.
Let us pray that, in social, economic, and political situations of conflict, we may be courageous and passionate architects of dialogue and friendship, men and women who always hold out a helping hand, and may no spaces of enmity and war remain.
Pope Francis – July 2021
Against polarization and confrontation: Pope Francis emphasizes the value of dialogue in his monthly prayer intention
In The Pope Video, the Holy Father focuses on dialogue as the “path to seeing reality in a new way, so we can live with passion the challenges we face in constructing the common good.” He calls for putting an end to the polarization that divides us and praying that “no spaces of enmity or war” may remain.
(Vatican City, July 1, 2021) – The Pope Video has just been published with the intention that Francis is entrusting to the entire Catholic Church through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. In this month of July, the Holy Father calls us to become “architects of dialogue and friendship” to solve the conflicts and causes of division that exist in society and among individual people. Only through dialogue, he tells us, is it possible to flee the constant polarization and social enmity that destroy so many relationships.
Francis asks that we pray to construct the common good with men and women who extend a hand to each other, and especially to always be at the side of the most impoverished and vulnerable.
Dialogue in a polarized world
Although in general we can say that, on a global level, the number of war deaths has been dropping since 1946, conflicts and violence on a societal level are more present than ever. Although at times it doesn’t manifest itself physically, we can observe a growing polarization that ends up contaminating many relationships. The Pope already warned about this in 2016: “We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy.” Since then he has been observing with concern how polarization and enmity were also a “virus” that was invading our ways of thinking, feeling and acting.
In today’s world, Francis points out, “part of our politics, society and media dedicate themselves to creating enemies so as to defeat them in a game of power.” This is why we need to “build social friendship, which is so necessary for living together well,” a friendship that can serve as a bridge to continue creating a culture of encounter, which will bring us closer, above all, to those who are on the peripheries, the most impoverished and vulnerable.
Dialogue to construct the common good
In his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti (2020), the Pope dedicated the sixth chapter to “Dialogue and Friendship in Society”: “Authentic social dialogue involves the ability to respect the other’s point of view and to admit that it may include legitimate convictions and concerns” (FT 203). In his intention for July, he reinforces this idea, reaffirming that dialogue is a great opportunity to see “reality in a new way, so we can live with passion the challenges we face in constructing the common good.”
Giving priority to dialogue means abandoning the logic of polarization and replacing it with respect, without wanting to destroy others. There can be richness in differences, but if there is no dialogue we can allow them to lead to hostility, threats and violence. “We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin color, languages and social backgrounds; we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches,” Francis said several years ago.
Men and women who are architects of dialogue and friendship
Fr. Fréderic Fornos, S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, observed that this intention “highlights the Holy Father’s emphasis on achieving the ‘rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity’ (FT 8). Dialogue, authentic dialogue that doesn’t fall into parallel monologues, must be our first option for solving social, economic, and political conflicts. All international academic research shows that polarization has grown greatly in recent years, even in the most solid democracies. For this reason, being architects of friendship and reconciliation—what Francis is asking of us—is even more urgent in today’s world, where—as Benedict XVI reminded us in his encyclical letter Caritas in veritate—our increasingly globalized society brings us closer together but doesn’t make us grow in fraternity. Achieving this does not depend only on our own strength, and this is why we need to pray for this intention. We ask Jesus Christ to help us on this path. He is the path to true social friendship.”