By Fiorella Capasso,Fiodanice-Cultures en dialogue
We have prepared a new look for the website of the Italy-Malta Unit, driven by the desire to enhance the ancient charism from which our mission has drawn spiritual and operational lifeblood for almost 400 years: four centuries of “compassionate outreach primarily to girls, women and children in the face of social conditions that cry out for mercy and reconciliation” (Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd Position Papers 2018).
We were also encouraged by the desire to contribute to the work of continual renewal that permeates the life of the Congregation which, in our times, invites us to bring “new responses in relation to Social Justice” because “justice is an integral part of our mission of reconciliation”: it was the 25th Congregation Chapter of 1985. In those years the encounter between secular and religious culture opened up for us, centred on one fundamental question that people pass on from generation to generation and which for us believers is rooted in the First Testament: “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20), and in the teaching from the Gospel: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees…”. (Matthew 5:20-26).
Today, in line with the recent revision of the 2018 Position Papers edited by the Good Shepherd International Justice and Peace Office, we take a stand for justice and dignity. In a world of growing inequalities, it is urgent that respect becomes a form of relationship with one another and that it leads to experiences of good not as an abstract entity, but as one recognized in the lives of people and things. The 2018 Position Papers prove to be for us “a reference and resource” useful for the realization of a mission characterized by “compassionate welcome and relevant program development; it includes vibrant policy and advocacy activities that call for justice in systems and structures of programs, governments, church, and social entities” (Introduction to 2018 Position Papers). They also represent for us a clear orientation to foster a “movement” between justice and mercy, that is, to trigger tenderness, love, in the evangelical sense of “caritas”.
For this reason, in our activities we are committed to translating justice into recognition of the dignity of each person, their fundamental human rights, the freedom of everyone, the absence of discrimination on the grounds of faith, race, culture, sex.
For us, Justice is the right of every human creature to life, to the earth, to food, to water, to an education that makes every person more aware of these rights, more capable of good, hope, solidarity and self-determination in their own life. This individual good is only possible thanks to the common good, social justice especially for the poor, social balance and the stability of social and political order.
Our Position is never a fixed one, it has its own dynamism, its own capacity to interact with situations, it has its own character, its own energy nourished by inclusive values, it has principles that sustain it and make it proactive, it has its own life, its own possibility to look openly at the horizon and to promote processes, rather than occupying space, as Pope Francis reminds us too.
To take a stand is a commitment to come out, “coming out of oneself and setting out on pilgrimage” (EG, 124); it is a commitment to mobilise in a logic of reciprocity, so that each one can discover himself capable of participating in the construction of a society that grows and makes humanity grow, in which he can express himself freely, without the fear of being cut off from indifference and from the throwaway culture.
We take a stand by combining the rights approach – which is concerned with the fate of disadvantaged “categories” (women, children, migrants, refugees, etc.) – with the ability approach, more clearly oriented to people themselves, seen as singular human beings, bearers of a claim to dignity, in search of recognition of their abilities, of what they are and have to give, within, but not locked in their “need”.
It is an extraordinary challenge, an epochal one. Perhaps our foundress, Saint Mary Euphrasia, is smiling with tenderness, as the world has changed radically compared to the one in which she lived in the first half of the 18th century, but the style of our action for justice and dignity remains unchanged: to do and make people experience both personal good and common good.
“This seems to be the mysterious work that goes on in the hive, everyone engaged for the general good”
(St. Mary Euphrasia, Conferences, ch. 50)