Religion Is ‘Leaven’ in Society, Pope Tells Brazil’s Leaders

Pope Francis met July 27 with Brazilian political, cultural, educational and business leaders gathered at Rio de Janeiro’s municipal theater.

Pope Francis addresses Brazilian leaders in Rio de Janeiro July 27.
Pope Francis addresses Brazilian leaders in Rio de Janeiro July 27. (photo: EWTN )

Pope Francis told representatives of Brazil’s leadership this morning that governments should affirm the value of religion in society so that religions can contribute to open dialogue in the public square.

“Peaceful coexistence between different religions is favored by the laicity of the state, which ... respects and esteems the presence of the religious factor in society, while fostering its concrete expressions,” the Pope said July 27 to Brazilian leaders gathered at Rio de Janeiro’s ornate municipal theater.

He said the great religious traditions “play a fruitful role as a leaven of society and a life-giving force for democracy.”

Pope Francis’ audience included political, diplomatic, cultural, religious, academic and business representatives of the people of Brazil. Pope Francis briefly opened his remarks in Portuguese, but asked their forgiveness for his continuing in Spanish, saying he wanted to “express more clearly what I carry in my heart.”

“I see in you both memory and hope,” he told them, citing especially the hope that the light of the Gospel will “continue to develop in full respect for the ethical principles grounded in the transcendent dignity of the person” in their nation.

The Pope said those in positions of responsibility must look at the future calmly and also see the truth. He said this “calm gaze” must recognize the distinctiveness of a culture, shared responsibility and constructive dialogue.

Pope Francis affirmed Brazilian culture’s “dynamic and distinctive character.” He said the basic principles of a culture must rest on “an integral vision of the human person.”

He urged Brazil’s leaders to appreciate fully the “richness” of nourishment that “the Gospel through the Catholic Church” has given to Brazilian culture, especially its “vision of man and of life.”
This nourishment can “render fruitful a cultural process that is true to Brazilian identity and capable of building a better future for all,” he reflected.

Pope Francis emphasized the importance of an “integral humanism.”

He said that promoting a full view of humanity and a “culture of encounter and relationship” is the “Christian way of promoting the common good, the joy of living.”

In promoting these, the Pope said, “faith and reason unite.” Thought and life are given a “new vitality,” instead of a “dissatisfaction and disillusionment” that spreads into “hearts … and streets.”

“Fraternal relations between peopl, and cooperation in building a more just society: These are not (from) some vague utopia, but (are) the fruit of a concerted effort on the part of all, in service of the common good,” he reminded them.

Pope Francis spoke about shared responsibility for society, advocating “a humanistic vision of the economy.” He said politics should allow the participation of all people, including “eliminating forms of elitism and eradicating poverty.”

Leaders are called to ensure that “basic needs  are met and that human dignity, brotherhood and solidarity are guaranteed on every level.” He lamented that since the time of the prophet Amos, hundreds of years before Christ, “the outcry, the call for justice,” continues to be heard “even today.”

The Pope emphasized that leaders must have “practical goals” and “specific means” to reach them. Leadership requires the “most just decision” in light of one’s personal responsibility and of concern for the common good.

“To act responsibly is to see one’s own actions in the light of other people’s rights and God’s judgment,” he said.

Pope Francis said “constructive dialogue” is “essential” for Brazil, which has been rocked by massive protests in recent months.

“Between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue,” the Pope taught.

He emphasized that dialogue must be a process of give and take, always while “remaining open to the truth.” Dialogue helps increase respect for others’ rights and grows understanding between cultures and religion.

Dialogue is “the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress.”

He said this is part of the “culture of encounter” in which everyone has something good to give and something good to receive in turn.

“Others always have something to give me,” he said, “if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice.”

“Today, either we stand together with the culture of encounter, or we all fall.”

Pope Francis concluded by asking that his audience accept his words as an expression of his “concern” as Pastor of the Church and as an expression of “my love for the Brazilian people.

“I encourage you in your commitment to the common good, a commitment which demands of everyone wisdom, prudence and generosity.”