Pope Francis said in a message Saturday that others should be treated with dignity and respect, not as objects to exploit or throw away.
The pope’s speech was read aloud at a live-streamed event on human fraternity, sponsored by the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, held in St. Peter’s Square June 10. Pope Francis was scheduled to attend before being hospitalized on Wednesday for an abdominal surgery.
“Even though I am unable to greet you in person, I would like to welcome and thank you wholeheartedly for coming,” Francis said in the message, read by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and president of the Fratelli Tutti Foundation.
“In the encyclical Fratelli tutti,” the pope said, “I wrote: ‘Fraternity necessarily calls for something greater, which in turn enhances freedom and equality,’ since the one who sees the other as a brother or sister sees in him or her a face, not a number.”
“The other is always ‘someone’ who has dignity and merits respect, and not ‘something’ to be used, exploited or thrown away,” he added.
The June 10 event, called “#Not Alone,” was centered on the signing of a declaration on human fraternity drafted by a dozen Nobel Peace Prize winners together with representatives of former Nobel Prize-winning organizations.
“United with Pope Francis, we want to reaffirm that ‘authentic reconciliation does not flee from conflict, but is achieved in conflict, resolving it through dialogue and open, honest and patient negotiation’ (Fratelli Tutti, n. 244). All this within the context of the human rights framework,” the declaration says.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state, signed the document in Pope Francis’ place June 10.
After the signing of the document, young people representing different countries formed “a symbolic embrace” by joining hands in a ring around St. Peter’s Square.
The six-hour event included speeches, testimonies, performances by Italian music artists — including Grammy-winner Andrea Bocelli — and circus performers.
Nobel laureates in attendance included Iraqi human rights advocate Nadia Murad, Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, and Yemeni Arab Spring leader Tawakkol Karman.
The former presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Poland, and Democratic Republic of East Timor — all peace prize winners — also participated, as well as representatives of several U.N. organizations that have been past recipients.
“In our world torn apart by violence and war, tweaks and adjustments are not enough,” Pope Francis said in his message. “Only a great spiritual and social covenant born from the heart and centered on fraternity can restore the sacredness and inviolability of human dignity as the core of relationships.”
“This does not require theories on fraternity but concrete gestures and shared decisions that make it a culture of peace,” he continued. “The question to ask ourselves is not what society and the world can give me, but what can I give to my brothers and sisters.”
“When we return home, let us think of some concrete gesture of fraternity that we can make: reconciling with family members, friends and neighbors, praying for those who hurt us, recognizing and helping those in need, speaking words of peace at school, university or in society, ‘anointing’ with closeness those who feel alone,” he said.
By Hannah Brockhaus