Pope Francis says "Don't be afraid to "waste time" listening to people and their problems!" FULL TEXT to Mayors


Sala Clementina - Saturday, 5 February 2022



Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!

I thank the President for his words of greeting. I am happy to welcome you for a moment of reflection on your service for the defense and promotion of the common good in the cities and communities you administer. Through you, I greet the Mayors from all over the country, with grateful appreciation, in particular, for what you are doing and what you have done in these two years of pandemic. Your presence was instrumental in encouraging people to keep looking ahead. You have been a point of reference in enforcing regulations that are sometimes burdensome, but necessary for the health of citizens. Indeed, your voice has also helped those with legislative responsibilities to make timely decisions for the good of all. Thank you!

If I think about your work, I realize how complex it is. Moments of consolation are accompanied by many difficulties. On the one hand, in fact, your closeness to the people is a great opportunity to serve the citizens, who love you because of your presence among them. The vicinity. On the other hand, I imagine you sometimes feel the loneliness of responsibility. Often people think that democracy is reduced to delegating by vote, forgetting the principle of participation, essential for a city to be well managed. Mayors are expected to have the solution to all problems! But these - we know - are not resolved only by resorting to financial resources. How important it is to be able to count on the presence of solidarity networks, which provide skills to face them! The pandemic has brought out many frailties, but also the generosity of volunteers, neighbors, health personnel and administrators who have spent themselves in alleviating the suffering and loneliness of the poor and the elderly. This network of solidarity relationships is a treasure that must be preserved and strengthened.

Looking at your service, I would like to offer you three words of encouragement. Fatherhood - or motherhood -, peripheries and peace.

Paternity or maternity. Service to the common good is a high form of charity, comparable to that of parents in a family. Even in a city, different situations must be answered with different attentions; therefore paternity - or maternity - takes place above all through listening. The mayor or mayor knows how to listen. Don't be afraid to "waste time" listening to people and their problems! A good listening helps to make discernment, to understand the priorities on which to intervene. There is no shortage, thank God, of the testimonies of mayors who have devoted much of their time to listen and collect the concerns of the people.

And with listening, the courage of the imagination must not be lacking. Sometimes we are under the illusion that adequate funding is enough to solve problems. It is not true, in reality, a project of civil coexistence and citizenship is also needed: it is necessary to invest in beauty where there is more degradation, in education where social discomfort reigns, in places of social aggregation where violent reactions are seen, in training to legality where corruption dominates. Knowing how to dream of a better city and share the dream with other local administrators, with those elected to the city council and with all citizens of good will is an index of social care. It's a bit like the job of the mayor and the mayor.

The second word is suburbs.It suggests that Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem and died outside the walls of Jerusalem on Calvary. He reminds us of the evangelical "centrality" of the peripheries. I like to repeat that the whole is better seen from the peripheries: not from the center, from the peripheries. You often feel the tragedy that is experienced in degraded suburbs, where social neglect generates violence and forms of exclusion. Starting from the peripheries does not mean excluding someone, it is a choice of method; not an ideological choice, but to start with the poor to serve the good of all. You know it very well: there is no city without poor people. I would add that the poor are the wealth of a city. This would seem cynical to some; no it does not; they remind us - they, the poor - of our frailties and that we need each other.Saint John Paul II .

In times of pandemic we discovered loneliness and conflicts inside the houses, which were hidden; the tragedy of those who have had to close their economic activity, the isolation of the elderly, the depression of adolescents and young people - think of the number of suicides of young people! -, the social inequalities that have favored those who already enjoyed comfortable economic conditions, the efforts of families who do not make it to the end of the month ... And also, I would like to mention them, the usurers knocking on doors. And this happens in the cities, at least here in Rome. How many sufferings you have encountered! But the peripheries must not only be helped, they must be transformed into laboratories of a different economy and society. In fact, when we are dealing with people's faces, it is not enough to give a food package. Their dignity demands a job, and therefore a project in which everyone is valued for what they can offer to others. Work is truly an anointing of dignity! The surest way to take away the dignity of a person or a people is to take away the job. It's not aboutbring bread home: this does not give you dignity. It's about earning the bread you take home. And that yes, it anoints you with dignity.

Third word: peace. One of the indications offered by Jesus to the disciples sent on mission is to bring peace to homes: "In whatever house you enter, first say: 'Peace be to this house!'" ( Lk10.5). There are many conflicts at home, there is a need for serenity and peace. And we are confident that good quality relationships are true social security in a city. For this there is a historical task that involves everyone: to create a common fabric of values ​​that leads to disarming the tensions between cultural and social differences. The same politics of which you are protagonists can be a training ground for dialogue between cultures, even before bargaining between different sides. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to make it evolve towards a new form of encounter and coexistence with the other. «Faced with the conflict, some simply look at it and go on as if nothing had happened […]. Others enter the conflict in such a way that they remain prisoners […]. However, there is a third way, the most appropriate [...]: agree to endure the conflict, resolve it and transform it into a connecting link in a new process. "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Mt 5: 9) "(Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium , 227 ). Conflict is dangerous if it remains closed in on itself. We must not confuse the crisis with the conflict. For example, the pandemic has put us in a crisis, this is good. The crisis is good, because the crisis makes you resolve and make progress. But the bad thing is when the crisis turns into conflict and the conflict is closed, conflict is war, conflict is unlikely to find a solution that goes further. Crisis yes, conflict no. Escape from conflicts but live in crisis.

Social peace is the fruit of the ability to share vocations, skills and resources. It is essential to foster the resourcefulness and creativity of people, so that they can weave meaningful relationships within the neighborhoods. Many small responsibilities are the premise for a concrete pacification that is built daily. It is good to recall here the principle of subsidiarity, which gives value to intermediate bodies and does not mortify free personal initiative.

Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to stay close to the people. Because a temptation in the face of responsibility is to flee. Isolating oneself, fleeing ... Isolating oneself is a way of escaping. St. John Chrysostom, bishop and father of the Church, thinking precisely of this temptation, exhorted to spend oneself for others, rather than stay in the mountains and look at them with indifference. Spend yourself. It is a teaching to be kept, especially when we risk getting discouraged and disappointed. I accompany you with my prayers and I bless you, I bless you all: each in his heart, in his profession, I bless your offices as mayor, I bless your collaborators, your work. And each one receives this blessing in the measure of his own faith. And I ask you to please pray for me, because I too am the "mayor" of something! Thank you.