BUENOS AIRES — Pope Francis has repeatedly been the subject of dangerous simplifications over the six years of his papacy — and thus in this age of fake news and media distortion, it might be better to let him speak for himself.
In his homily that marked the start of his pontificate, on March 19, 2013, the new Argentine pontiff laid out his idea of service: "Let us never forget that service is the real power and that the Pope himself, to exercise power, must become more deeply engaged in the service most shiningly epitomized in The Cross. He must cast his eyes on service that is humble, solid and rich in the faith of Saint Joseph, and like him, open his arms to guard all of God's People and receive with affection and tenderness humanity itself, especially the poorest, the weakest and the smallest..."
More recently, when addressing Catholic officials from Latin America, he declared: "Politics is first and foremost service and not an instrument of individual ambitions, factional arrogance or interest centers. And as service, it is neither domineering nor does it seek to govern every aspect of people's lives, falling even into forms of autocracy and totalitarianism."
According to the Pope's own words, he does not consider power to be a tool for personal affirmation, victory, or maintaining order. For as Christ said to Pilate, "My Kingdom is not of this world."
An elevated, noble vision far removed from party politics.
Power — and with it, politics — should not be considered worldly categories. For Pope Francis, politics is seen as a means for building the common good, as "the highest service of charity" to quote the words of Pope Paul VI. It is an elevated, noble vision far removed from party politics. One would do well to return to his days leading the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, and re-read his speeches at the Social Pastoral workshops, when he distinguished between political mediation as selfless exertion for others vs. a mediation moved by corporate interests.
Back when the Pope was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he regularly criticized local politicians for their short-term perspectives and their tiresome, excessively "internal" concerns. The Pope loves politics that can put its strength into action to help the poor and disenfranchised members of society. For him, power and politics are only relevant if they can bring benefits that reduce inequalities, rather than using the poor as a utilitarian, ideological instrument to mask political selfishness.
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