The State Is Called to Greater Responsibility
by Pope Francis
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you and thank your President, Professor Stefano Zamagni, for his courteous words and for having accepted to preside over the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. This year also you have chosen a topic of permanent actuality. Unfortunately, we have under our eyes situations in which some national States carry out their relations more in a spirit of opposition than of cooperation. Verified, moreover, is that States’ borders don’t always coincide with demarcations of homogeneous populations and that many tensions stem from an excessive claim of sovereignty on the part of States, often in fact in an ambit where they are no longer able to act effectively to protect the common good.
Be it in the Encyclical Laudato Si’ be it in this year’s Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps, I have drawn attention to the challenges of a global character that humanity must face, such as integral development, peace, the care of the common home, climate change, poverty, wars, migrations, the trafficking of people, organ trafficking, the protection of the common good <and> the new forms of slavery.
Saint Thomas has a beautiful notion of what is a people: “As the Seine is not a river determined by the water that flows, but by an origin and a precise riverbed, so that it is always considered the same river, even if the water that runs is different, so a people is the same not by the identity of a soul or of men, but by the identity of the territory, or, even more so, by the laws and the way of living, as Aristotle says in the third book of the Politics (The Spiritual Creatures, a. 9 to 10). The Church has always exhorted to the love of one’s people, of the homeland, to respect of the treasure of the various cultural expressions, of the uses and customs and of the right ways of living rooted in the peoples. At the same time, the Church has admonished persons, peoples, and governments regarding deviations from this attachment, when inclined to exclusion and hatred of others, when it becomes conflictive nationalism that raises walls, indeed even racism or anti-Semitism. The Church observes with concern the re-emergence virtually everywhere in the world, of aggressive currents against strangers, especially immigrants, as well as that growing nationalism that neglects the common good. Risked thus is compromising already consolidated forms of international cooperation, undermining the aims of International Organizations as areas of dialogue and of encounter for all countries, on a plane of mutual respect, and the obtaining is hindered of the objectives of sustainable development, approved by unanimity in the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015.
The common doctrine is that the State is at the service of the person and of natural groupings of persons, such as the family, the cultural group, the nation as expression of the will and profound customs of a people, the common good and peace. Too often, however, the States are subservient to the interests of a dominant group, in general for motives of economic profit that oppress, among others, the ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities that are in their territory.
In this perspective, for instance, the way in which a Nation receives migrants reveals its vision of human dignity and its relationship with humanity. Every human person is a member of humanity and has the same dignity. When a person or a family is constrained to leave their own land they are received with humanity. I’ve said many times that our obligations to migrants are articulated around four verbs: receive, protect, promote and integrate. The migrant isn’t a menace to the culture, to the customs and to the values of the receiving nation. He also has a duty to integrate himself in the nation that receives him. To integrate doesn’t mean to assimilate, but to share the kind of life of his new homeland, although himself remaining as person, bearer of his own biographical story. In this way, the migrant will be able to present himself and to be recognized as an opportunity to enrich the people that integrate him. It’s the task of the public authority to protect migrants and to regulate the migratory flows with the virtue of prudence, as well as to promote reception so that the local populations are formed and encouraged to participate consciously in the integrative process of migrants that are received.
The migratory issue, which is a permanent datum of human history, also revives the reflection on the nature of the national State. All nations are the fruit of the integration of successive waves of persons or groups of migrants and tend to be images of the diversity of humanity, although united by values, common cultural resources, and healthy customs. A State that aroused the nationalistic feelings of its people against other nations or groups of persons would fail its own mission. We know from history where such deviations lead; I am thinking of Europe of the last century.
The national State can’t be considered as an absolute, as an island in regard to the surrounding context. In the present situation of globalization, not only of the economy but also of technological and cultural exchanges, the national State is no longer able to procure on its own the common good to its populations. The common good has become global and the nations must associate themselves to it for their own benefit. When a super-national common good is clearly identified, there must be an opposite legal authority legally and agreed in its constitution, capable of facilitating its execution. Let us think of the great contemporary challenges of climate change, of the new slaveries and of peace.
Whereas, according to the principle of subsidiarity, the faculty must be recognized to individual nations to operate for what they can attain, on the other hand, groups of neighbouring nations — as is already the case — can reinforce their cooperation attributing the exercise of some functions and services to inter-governmental institutions that manage their common interests. It is to be hoped that, for example, the awareness is not lost in Europe of the benefits contributed by this path of closeness and concord between peoples undertaken in the second post-war period. In Latin America, instead, Simon Bolivar spurred the leaders of his time to forge the dream of a Great Homeland, that was able and could receive, respect, embrace and develop the richness of every people. This cooperative vision between the nations can move history by re-launching multilateralism, opposed be it to the nationalistic thrusts, be it to a hegemonic policy.
Thus humanity would avoid the menace of the recourse to armed conflicts every time that a dispute arises between national States, and it would elude as well the danger of the economic and ideological colonization of the super-powers, avoiding the oppression of the strongest over the weakest, giving attention to the global dimension without losing sight of the local, national and regional dimension. In face of the design of an imagined globalization as “spherical,” which levels the differences and suffocates the location, it’s easy to be it for nationalism, be it for hegemonic imperialisms to re-emerge. In order that globalization be for the benefit of all, thought must be given to implementing it in a “polyhedric” way, waging a healthy fight for the mutual recognition between the collective identity of each people and nation and globalization itself, in keeping with the principle that the whole comes before the parts, so as to arrive at a general state of peace and concord.
The multilateral instances were created in the hope of being able to substitute the logic of revenge, the logic of dominion, of oppression and of conflict with that of dialogue, of mediation, of compromise, of concord and of awareness of belonging to the same humanity in the common home. Of course, it’s necessary that such organisms ensure that the States be effectively represented with equal rights and duties to avoid the growing hegemony of powers and interest groups that impose their own vision and ideas, as well as new forms of ideological colonization, not rarely disrespectful of the identity, of the uses and customs, of the dignity and sensibility of the interested peoples. The emergence of such tendencies is weakening the multilateral system, with the outcome of poor credibility in international politics and of a progressive marginalization of the most vulnerable members of the Family of Nations.
I encourage you to persevere in the search for processes geared to overcome what divides the nations and to propose new ways of cooperation, especially in regard to the new challenges of climate change and the new slaveries, as well as that lofty social good that is peace. Unfortunately, today the season of multilateral nuclear disarmament seems outdated and no longer stirs the political conscience of nations that possess atomic arms. Rather, a new season seems to be opening of disquieting nuclear confrontation, as it cancels the progress of the recent past and multiplies the risk of wars, also because of the possible malfunctioning of very advanced technologies, always subject to the natural and human imponderable. If now, not only on earth but also in space offensive and defensive nuclear arms are placed, the so-called new technological frontier will have raised and not lowered the danger of a nuclear holocaust.
Therefore, the State is called to greater responsibility. Although keeping the characteristics of independence and sovereignty and continuing to pursue the good of its own population, it is its task today to take part in the building of humanity’s common good, necessary and essential element for global equilibrium. This universal common good must, in turn, acquire a more accentuated legal status at the international level. I’m not thinking of course of a generic universalism or an internationalism that neglects the identity of individual peoples: this, in fact, is always valued as a unique and indispensable contribution in the larger harmonious design.
Dear friends, as inhabitants of our time, Christians and academics of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, I ask you to collaborate with me in spreading this awareness of a renewed international solidarity, in respect of human dignity, of the common good, of the planet and of the supreme good of peace.
I bless you all; I bless your work and your initiatives. I accompany you with my prayer, and you also, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you!
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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