Fratelli tutti

As chapter seven continues, Pope Francis goes on to look at forgiveness and how it is important that the call to forgiveness does not forget other aspects of relationships that need forgiveness. One heading for three paragraphs is ‘Legitimate conflict and forgiveness’. It can be summed up in part of n.241, “Nor does this mean calling for forgiveness when it involves renouncing our own rights, confronting corrupt officials, criminals or those who debase our dignity. we are called to love everyone, without exception; at the same time, loving an oppressor does not mean allowing him to keep oppressing us, or letting him think what he does is acceptable. On the contrary, true love for an oppressor means seeking ways to make him cease his oppression; it means stripping him of a power that he does not know how to use, and that diminishes his own humanity and that of others.”

The next heading is ‘The best way to move on’. He says in n.244, “When conflicts are not resolved but kept hidden or buried in the past, silence can lead to complicity in grace misdeeds and sins. Authentic reconciliation does not flee from conflict, but is achieved in conflict, resolving it through dialogue and open, honest and patient negotiation.” The vital words there, I think, are ‘authentic’, ‘dialogue’, ‘open, honest and patient negotiation’. It is not resolution by imposition but by mutual acceptance.

Another heading is ‘Memory’. It covers nn.246 to 254. In n.246 Pope Francis stresses that people “who have endured much unjust and cruel suffering, a sort of ‘social forgiveness’ must not be demanded”. He says, “…it is not possible to proclaim a ‘blanket reconciliation’ in an effort to bind wounds by decree or to cover injustices in a cloak of oblivion. Who can claim the right to forgive in the name of others?

In n.247 he speaks of the Shoah (the Holocaust) — “the enduring symbol of the depths to which human evil can sink when, spurred by false ideologies, it fails to recognize the fundamental dignity of each person, which merits unconditional respect regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief”. He refers also to the atomic bombs dropped in the Second World War on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He says, “I pay homage to all the victims, and I bow before the strength and dignity of those who, having survived those first moments, for years afterward bore in the flesh immense suffering…”. At the end of n.248 and in n.249 he mentions that we should never forget the persecutions, the slave trade and the ethnic killings that continue today in various countries, as well as the many historical events that make us ashamed of our humanity. By not forgetting, we should remind ourselves to not repeat and we need to remember that those who endured such things who forgave and retained their dignity through the most terrible times can be an inspiration to us all.