In an address at the San Francisco church in Quito, Ecuador Pope Francis told political and social policy makers of the country to look to the family as their model for solidarity and subsidiarity. “In a family, parents, grandparents and children feel at home; no one is excluded,” the Holy Father said in his July 7 address. “Should it not be the same in society?” The Pope lamented that frequently in the political realm, agendas are often pushed forward through confrontation and a desire to “eliminate” the other, rather than by working together for the common good. “My position, my ideas and my plans will move forward if I can prevail over others and impose my will. Is this the way a family should be?” he asked. “In families, everyone contributes to the common purpose, everyone works for the common good, not denying each person’s individuality but encouraging and supporting it.” The values learned in family life such as love, fraternity and mutual respect, can and should manifest in societal life as gratitude, solidarity and subsidiarity, the Pope explained. He asked those present to translate their love for their community, society and country into actions and not just words. “Who we are, and what we have, has been given to us so that we can place it at the service of others. Our task is to make it bear fruit in good works,” he said. Pope Francis especially asked that policy makers show respect and solidarity in protecting the great environmental diversity in Ecuador, which is home to both mountains and coastlands, as well as the Galapagos Islands. “The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits,” he said. “As stewards of these riches which we have received, we have an obligation toward society as a whole and towards future generations.” The people of Ecuador took a step in this direction in the fall of 2008, when they became the first country to adopt a constitution that legally recognizes the “Rights of Nature” to “exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.” (Article 1 of “Rights of Nature” chapter of the Ecuador constitution). Referencing his environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si”, Pope Francis asked those present to continue to protect their natural environment and to see themselves as teachers of an “integral ecology”. Ecuador is one of the “richest areas both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species…it requires greater protection because of its immense importance for the global ecosystem…it possesses an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when (such woodlands) are burned down or leveled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands,” the Pope said, referring to his encyclical. Just as people experience a feeling of responsibility for those in their own family, so too should they see themselves as responsible for members of society and for future generations, who will inherit the world as it is left to them, the Pope added. He also asked the public policy makers to help Ecuador overcome its current challenges of migration, overcrowded cities, consumerism, poverty and unemployment with laws and regulations that “aim at inclusion, create opportunities for dialogue and encounter, while leaving behind all forms of repression, excessive control or loss of freedom as painful past memories.” “Hoping in a better future calls for offering real opportunities to people, especially young people, creating employment, and ensuring an economic growth which is shared by all (rather than simply existing on paper, in macroeconomic statistics), and promoting a sustainable development capable of generating a solid and cohesive social fabric,” he said. The Pope also asked those present to consider all the diverse people of Ecuador as valuable participants in its democracy, and to consider how such diversity can make for a beautiful society that is working toward the common good. “The Church wishes for her part to cooperate in the pursuit of the common good, through her social and educational works, promoting ethical and spiritual values, and serving as a prophetic sign which brings a ray of light and hope to all, especially those most in need,” he said. “May the Lord grant that the civil society which you represent will always be a fitting setting for experiencing and practicing these values of which I have spoken.”
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