MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE CENTENARY INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
OF THE APPEAL "TO ALL THE FREE AND STRONG MEN" BY DON LUIGI STURZO
Dear brothers and sisters,
I cordially greet all of you, participants in the International Conference to be held in Caltagirone, the birthplace of the Servant of God Don Luigi Sturzo, on the occasion of the Centenary of the Appeal "To all free and strong men". I thank the Scientific-Promoting Committee and the Organizing Committee for having given life to this valuable initiative, together with all the Organizations, Movements, Associations, Academic and Cultural Institutions that are present in a spirit of collaboration.
It is a happy intuition to honor "united and together" an anniversary so important for the history of Italy and Europe, rereading with a large and qualified contribution of ideas, experiences and good practices the twelve Points that constituted the Program of the Appeal, to reflect its value and its relevance and reaffirm its practicability among the people, through a new cultural and social dialogue that is inspired, today as yesterday, "to the solid principles of Christianity".
On the occasion of the V National Convention of the Italian Church, I emphasized the importance of this method, which is at the basis of the great efforts made by Don Luigi Sturzo and the lay Christians of the time, before the formulation of the "appeal": "La Italian society is built when its various cultural riches can dialogue in a constructive way: the popular, the academic, the youthful, the artistic, the technological, the economic, the political, the media. [...] Remember also that the best way to talk is not to talk and discuss, but to do something together, to build together, to make plans: not alone, among Catholics, but together with all those who have good will "(Florence, 10 November 2015). It seems to me that I can grasp these words in your initiative and, therefore, I encourage you to continue on this path in the name of the culture of encounter and the dialogue that is dear to my heart.
This centenary gives us the opportunity to reflect on the Christian conception of social life and on charity in public life according to the thought, life and works of the Servant of God Don Luigi Sturzo. For the priest of Caltagirone, the task of informing socially and politically the Christian life belongs above all to the Christian laity who, through their own commitment and in the freedom that belongs to them in this area, carry out the social teachings of the Church, elaborating a creative synthesis between faith and history that finds its fulcrum in the natural love vivified by divine grace.
In controversy with those who supported a dualism between ethics and politics, between the Gospel and human society and limited the law of love to private life, Don Sturzo stated: "The law of love is not a political law; it is well in church, it is well with families, it is comfortable in private relationships. It is true that many today, even watered-down Christians, pose proud censors of those who deal with public life; and define politics a bilge of evils, an element of corruption, a triggering of passions; and therefore to stay away from it; they confuse the bad method with what is instead the citizen's duty-bound participation in the life of their country. Making a good or bad policy, from the subjective point of view of the one who does it, depends on the rectitude of the intention, on the goodness of the ends to be achieved and on the honest means that are employed for this purpose. This is how the Christians of every time and of every country think. And with this spirit, the love of neighbor in politics must be at home and must not be excluded as a stranger: nor sent away by making him jump out of the window, like an intruder. And love of neighbor does not consist in words, nor in moines: but in works and in truth "(from" Il Cittadino di Brescia ", 30 August 1925: True life. Sociology of the supernatural, Bologna 1943).
The moralization of public life is linked to Don Sturzo above all to a religious conception of life, from which derives the sense of moral responsibility and social solidarity. Love is for him the true social bond, the inspiring motive for all his activity. In a very original way, he tried to achieve a Christian "orthopraxis" of politics, based on a correct relationship between ethics and theological life, between the spiritual dimension and the social dimension.
In this perspective it is understandable how St. Louis Sturzo was defined by St. John Paul II "a tireless promoter of the Christian social message and a passionate defender of civil liberties" (Speech at the University of Palermo, November 20, 1982: Insegnamenti V, 3  , 1355). My venerable predecessor pointed this out as a model to seminarians and priests: "The life, teaching and example of Don Luigi Sturzo - who in full fidelity to his priestly charism knew how to infuse not only Sicilians but Italian Catholics the sense of the right and duty of participation in political and social life, in the light of the Church's teaching - be present and inspire their apostolate of evangelization and human promotion "(Speech to the Bishops of Sicily on their" ad Limina Apostolorum "visit, December 11, 1981: Teachings IV, 2 , 907).
Luigi Sturzo, before being a statesman, politician, sociologist and versatile scholar, was an obedient priest of the Church, a man of God who fought strenuously to defend and incarnate the evangelical teachings, in his land of Sicily, in the long years of exile in England and in the United States and in the last years of his life in Rome.
In his spiritual testament, written on 7 October 1958, he wrote: "To those who have criticized me for my political activity, for my love of freedom, my attachment to democracy, I must add, to this life of battles and of tribulations I did not come of my will, neither for desire of earthly aims nor human satisfactions: I have arrived brought by the events ». And he added: "I recognize the difficulties of keeping the priestly life intact from human passions and God knows how much I have loved the practical experiences of 60 years of this life; but I offered to God and directed everything to his glory and in everything I tried to fulfill in the service of the truth ".
His teaching and his testimony of faith must not be forgotten, especially at a time when politics is required to be far-sighted to face the grave anthropological crisis. The pivotal points of Sturzian social anthropology must therefore be recalled: the primacy of the person over society, society over the state and morality over politics; the centrality of the family; the defense of property with its social function as a need for freedom; the importance of work as the right and duty of every man; building a just peace through the creation of a true international community. These values are based on the assumption that Christianity is a message of salvation that is embodied in history, which is addressed to all mankind and must positively influence both private and public moral life.
One hundred years after the Appeal “To all free and strong men”, the Conference held in Caltagirone refers to a creative and responsible commitment of Christians, called to interpret the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel, to realize a social and political praxis animated by faith and lived as an intrinsic requirement of charity. I am thinking above all of young people, who must be adequately involved, so that they can bring new passion, new competence, new impetus to social and political commitment. With this hope, I hope that your days of work and reflection will be fruitful and bring abundant and lasting fruits. I cordially impart my blessing to you all, asking you to continue to pray for me.
From the Vatican, 13 June 2019