We take a stand to touch the hearts and lives of people/3

We take a stand to touch the hearts and lives of people/3

by Sister Teresa Linda
Summer 2021


 “God will come to meet you where your humanity has descended all the steps of weakness and you have reached the awareness of your limitation. If you yourself do not choose the path of abasement, life will take you where you would not want “[1].

So the Master of San Bartolo accompanies us along the path of spiritual progress, provided that we truly accept wholeheartedly to be weak, fragile creatures, incapable of saving ourselves on our own: this is the path of our full humanisation and recognition of the humanity of the other, that is, of considering people as a good to be valued and not as objects to be possessed.

But which way are we travelling today, in Europe, especially if we look at the violent policies that the European Union is pursuing against migrants? “After centuries of being the home of Christianity, Europe has lost the strength to be indignant, to rise up against abuses, bullying, violence and injustice. It has lost Job’s decision to rebel against conformism and scepticism[2].

We could almost talk about a new form of Holocaust, which unlike the first one, is right in front of everyone’s eyes: who can claim not to know how Europe is turning into a fortress? Since 2011, the Congregation has dedicated one of its Position Papers, the one on Migration, to this humanitarian emergency, reminding us of our Judeo-Christian spiritual roots based on the evangelical message “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35), which today calls us to experience profound transformations. There is an urgent need to build conditions that make it possible to meet, get to know and respect each other, enduring the inevitable hardships caused by the impact of differences, in the awareness that “the issue of the foreigner is paradoxical because while you believe that the foreigner is the other, the other believes the foreigner is you[3].

Will we be able to move towards a future of responsible women and men, capable of justice and reconciliation, core values of the spiritual heritage witnessed by our Founders? The first step to set out towards a more humane future involves the recognition of the humanitarian catastrophe that is taking place on our continent’s doorstep. The European Union continues to finance Libya and Turkey in particular, to prevent migrants from entering Europe: we do not recognize our own humanity in those who want to reach our continent to rebuild their lives. It would be truly paradoxical if the West, cradle of human rights, were to shipwreck them in the sea of indifference.

Yet there have been times when Europe has managed to face many other “invasions”: it did so in its worst moment, in the years of violence and anarchy that followed the fall of the Roman empire, when the invasions were ferocious and ruthless[4], not migrations of desperate people fleeing from war, persecution and the effects of climate change. It was the time of St Benedict of Nursia – perhaps not by chance among the patrons of Europe[5] – and of the effective ‘ora et labora’. Today, however, the danger does not come from outside: we produce pain and violence with indifference or the presumption of knowledge about migrants. Pope Francis tirelessly reminds us of this in ever clearer words:

  • on the occasion of the first visit of his pontificate, in Lampedusa: “I ask forgiveness for the deceased who nobody cries… The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep”;
  •  in his message for the 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees we feel all his compassion: “This is not just about migrants! In the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”;
  • at the Angelus prayer of last April 25, he expressed his sorrow for the umpteenth tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea: “They are people. They are human lives who begged for help in vain for two whole days — help that never arrived. […] Let us pray for these brothers and sisters, […] let us also pray for those who can help but prefer to look the other way.”, clearly pointing out that for us Europeans this is a time for shame. Feeling ashamed is a grace because it means that we do not accept evil, and it is the first step towards asking for forgiveness and opening up to paths of reconciliation.

Migrants are the deepest scar of globalization: we do not treat them as citizens but in the end not even as humans.[6] This is our humanity that is in crisis, personally and as a community. Acceptance of the crisis opens the way for its resolution, otherwise the risk is to live in the hypocrisy of pretending not to see what is happening instead of feeling deeply ashamed.

Not by chance, in the last few months, in the section Around us of the website, we have been keeping our attention focused on this epochal emergency,[7] in order to keep our ability to be indignant and react to what is happening, aware that, as Westerners, both personally and as a community, we have to take charge of the history that has seen us dominate and prevaricate over various populations in the past centuries, in different continents. We urgently need to ask for forgiveness for all the mistakes and injustices that our fathers have made, and to commit to repairing the mistakes of the past through a model of coexistence between different people that respects each other’s dignity.

Welcoming, hospitality, concern all of us, as a sign of times, theology itself directs us to rethink and practise the theology of dialogue. The presence of migrants from different cultures and religions makes the practice of dialogue and of listening necessary for an encounter to take place.

Interreligious dialogue is called to become the background of the theology of the 21st century, just as secularisation was the background of the theology of the previous century. In this change of epoch, a new way of thinking theology itself is required, in order to help and encourage cohabitation between people. We need a new understanding and self-understanding of religion and religions because the current self-understanding of religions is often an obstacle to cohabitation. The research of a new way of thinking and living interreligious dialogue is a civil, political, and humanitarian issue. A contribution of public theology[8] for the city at the service of the spiritual and cultural growth of humanity[9].

For us of the Good Shepherd, it is a matter of carrying out a mission of justice and reconciliation characterised by programmes that promote – in the footsteps of St Mary Euphrasia – reciprocal grateful love: respect and knowledge of migrations as well as a culture of encounter so that foreigners are welcomed and supported in their rights to leave, integrate and return[10], also according to the Magisterium of the Church: “Persons in extreme necessity are entitled to take what they need from the riches of others”[11].

In the testimony of our Foundress, we find motivation and energy to face the complexity of our globalised world in the burning passion for the good of people that characterized her. She, who considered the vow of zeal to be the heart of our vocation, still repeats to us today:

“Set to work; let your zeal be pure, prudent, universal, and persevering…. Universal and persevering: not an inconstant zeal which exists for a week and then cools down, but a daily zeal; a universal zeal, which is not affected either by countries or individuals…”[12].


[1] See Maestro di San Bartolo, Abbi a cuore il Signore, Edizioni San Paolo, suggested by Pope Francis for the spiritual exercises for Lent 2021.
[2] See Interview with the theologian Paolo Ricca in “Robinson” – la Repubblica – of June 12, 2021. (T.N.: Personal translation)
[3] See Amhed Djouder, Désintégration, 2007. (T.N.: Personal translation)
[4] See Paolo Rumiz, The Fault Line, 2015.
[5] First patron saint of Europe, nominated by Pope Paul IV in 1964.
[6] See interview with Julia Kristeva, French philosopher, psychoanalyst e philologist, with Bulgarian origins, author of “Strangers to Ourselves”.
[7] Blind Europe and increasingly closed and hostile Europeans in the face of the humanitarian catastrophe on the Balkan route, January 13, 2021; Humanitarian catastrophe continues in the heart of Europe for migrants without rights, January 15, 2021; Members of the European Parliament also chased through the woods on the Balkan route, February 4, 2021; Time for Fortress Europe to open its doors to a new system of integration, March 18, 2021, #ontherightside; Yesterday yet another shipwreck in the Mediterranean: “We rescuers in the midst of a sea of corpses”, April 23, 2021; “For two whole days they have been calling in vain for help.”, April 30, 2021, It’s a time for shame and prayer (Pope Francis); Europe as Herod: still bodies returned from the Mediterranean, May 27, 2021.
[8] The idea of a public theology expresses the desire to be able to direct theological reflection on socio-political life for the plural society as a whole, without being limited to members of the Christian community. See G. Villagran, Teologia pubblica, Queriniana.
[9] See Marco Dal Corso, Teologia dell’ospitalità, Queriniana.
[10] Strategic Plan Italy-Malta: Recognise migrations, – welcome the foreigner and support them in their rights to leave, integrate and return.
[11] From the encyclical Gaudium et spes. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World promulgated by Pope Paul VI, of 1964, one of the main documents of the Second Vatican Council.
[12] Cfr. Conferences and Instructions 63


Piero della Francesca, Polyptych of the Misericordia, 1444-1465