By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“While modern society places more importance on one’s own interests regardless of or even to the detriment of others…[true Christians] ban individualism in order to encourage sharing and solidarity.”
— Pope Francis, 2019
Today, December 20, is the International Human Solidarity Day. The virtue of solidarity is a key social justice principle. Pope St John Paul II said: “Solidarity is an authentic moral virtue, not a ‘feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, as we wait with hearts filled with joy and anticipation for the birth of the Christchild, let us reflect on the words of St Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one member suffers, all suffer together”.
I thought of this when I read an article in Forbes on December 9 entitled: ‘America’s Three Richest People Are Now Positioned To Pay Zero State Income Tax’. They will all reside in states that don’t collect income tax.
A 2019 Oxfam Report stated that “the world’s billionaires are growing $2.5 billion richer every day, while the poorest half of the global population is seeing its net worth dwindle….the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.”
While millions live in abject poverty, great wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. Over the years our popes have spoken out on this issue.
Way back in 1961, Pope St John XXIII said in his encyclical, Mater et Magistra: “The solidarity which binds all men together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.”
the virtue of faith
Pope Francis constantly urges world leaders to address “unacceptable inequality”. See his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on fraternity and social friendship.
Read his catechesis on September 2, 2020: Solidarity and the virtue of faith. Inter alia, he said: “The current pandemic has highlighted our interdependence: we are all connected to each other, for better or for worse. Therefore, to emerge from this crisis better than before, we have to do so together; together, not alone… in solidarity…
“As a human family we have our common origin in God; we live in a common home…and we have a common destination in Christ. But when we forget all this, our interdependence becomes dependence of some on others—we lose this harmony of interdependence and solidarity—increasing inequality and marginalisation; the social fabric is weakened, and the environment deteriorates…
“Therefore, the principle of solidarity is now more necessary than ever, as Saint John Paul ii taught (cf 38-40, Sollicitudo rei socialis). In an interconnected world, we experience what it means to live in the same ‘global village’…but we do not always transform this interdependence into solidarity…The selfishness—of individuals, nations and of groups with power—and ideological rigidities instead sustain “structures of sin” (36, ibid).
“The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity”. Much more! “It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few (188, Evangelii Gaudium)…It is not merely a question of helping others — it is good to do so, but it is more than that — it is a matter of justice (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1938–1949)…solidarity today is the road to take towards a post-pandemic world…There is no other way…
“In the midst of crises, a solidarity guided by faith enables us to translate the love of God in our globalised culture, not by building towers or walls…that divide, but then collapse, but by interweaving communities and sustaining processes of growth that are truly human and solid…the Lord calls to us and invites us to reawaken and activate this solidarity…”
This concern for the poor is in the Gospel, it is within the tradition of the Church, it is not an invention of communism and it must not be turned into an ideology, as has sometimes happened before in the course of history.
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee