For some this was considered as good news but for others this was quite an obvious statement and almost an irrelevant one. From an atheist point of view, considering that atheists believe in neither heaven nor hell, the last option should have applied. Being irrelevant might as well it be ignored. As in the case of most statement Pope Francis makes, even this one has stirred up some debate.
Although criticized by some of patronizing, the Pope’s statement focused on a positive note which does not always strike immediately. Let’s find a meeting point in ‘doing good’. In other words let’s focus on doing what is good for all of humanity. Everyone is capable of that – the Pope continued – goodness is not a prerogative of Christians.
In order to understand in depth the claim made by Pope Francis I propose two keys. The first is to see oneself as a person before seeing oneself as pertaining to any religion. The point of departure is that every one of us is a human person and only subsequently a believer in a God or a believer in none.
By analogy that’s why for example human rights are applicable to everyone no matter whether you are in your country of origin or whether you are a member of the majority – first and foremost we are human beings. That means that we have something in common – we are one at the same time that we are many.
Some claim, and I feel confident in claiming so, that we all desire to have a good life. Whether we manage or not is another story. As Aristotle would claim, living a happy life – a fulfilled life – means to aim towards what is good, seeking it and doing one’s utmost to achieve it. As humans we try to achieve what we consider as being good. The crux of it all is precisely this; what is ‘the good’ and where are we to come together as humans? To put it as Pope Francis did: Where do we find this ‘meeting point’?
However I feel the Pope is not just passing a hand of friendship towards non-believers but he is also passing on a message to believers. This is the second key; being baptised is not enough. It is not enough to warm the pews, but it is essential to warm one’s heart. This has been his constant call, even before his election to the Papacy.
Earlier this week he spoke about hypocrisy and how this contrasts with truth. Pope Francis is calling on everyone, especially on Christians not to be hypocritical; professing one thing and doing another is living a lie hence why hypocrisy is so scandalous. Hypocrisy is an antagonist of love and good; the latter is the ultimate call for all.
He is encouraging everyone to seek this good. We, and here I mean everyone without distinction of faith, cannot simply focus on ourselves egoistically and see ourselves as the one and only measure of goodness. There is something more profound which is a common good that must be respected; it is not simply the best for the most, but rather the best for each one and all, a good which brings out the best and fulfils our humanity not in its egoistic sense but in its fulfilled meaning. It is a view on life whereby we focus not on what we do but on what we are to become.