Convention of Bishops and Mayors in Florence

Argiolas: «The duties of the religious community in the city»

di Michele Zanzucchi

The organization of Italian Bishops has entrusted the main speeches of the meeting “Mediterranean, frontier of peace” taking place in Florence to Andrea Possieri of the University of Perugia, dealing with the “rights” of religious communities in the city and to Prof. Giuseppe Argiolas, rector of the Sophia University Institute delving into the corresponding “duties”.


In his speech about “which duties for the religious communities in the city?”, prof. Argiolas provided some foundations of the catholic social doctrine, revised in the light of Pope Francis’ teaching and the great season of Vatican II adjusting to the unstoppable change of our societies. Firstly, the rector defined the «fundamental duty that Pope Francis describes as the duty to “touch”». Secondly, the duty to «walk together». Thirdly, Argiolas referred to an unprecedented «fraternity pact». To conclude, he pointed out the «Global Educational Pact».

There were many references to the verb “touch”, especially in this time affected by the pandemic when social and personal distancing have demonized such action. Referring to Pope Francis’ statements, Argiolas said: «”Touching” the different forms of material, relational, existential, cultural poverty to address them starting from acknowledging our common creatural poverty and following Christ’s teaching and example, becoming the neighbor of the poor, whatever the form of poverty. This is the first duty of religious communities towards the city».

The former mayor of Florence La Pira gave Sophia’s rector the cue to talk about the following duty: «With prophetic foresight, La Pira points out a second “duty”: walking together (let’s think about the essential, I would say, indispensable journey of synodality undertook by the Catholic Church)». With a fitting note of practice: « If “walking together” constitutes the second duty – I am referring to a duty, not just a mere moral desire- of religious communities towards the city, it is worth asking ourselves: where to start over from? How to ensure the “common journey” able to generate “new life” and consequently provide proper answers to the current needs of the city? How can we update the “common journey” without going back to the deep root that makes it possible? ».

And this is the way to the “fraternity pact”, which was perfectly explained in the Abu Dhabi meeting: «What is the first “content”, if we may call it so, of the pact, if not fraternity? “In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal” as stated by the document on human fraternity (Declaration of Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019) it is possible to update the pact. By using the words of the document, a new way to cooperate with one another and live as brothers and sisters who love one another”. This solid root enables to adapt the pact to cities, specifically to the duties of religious communities towards the cities».

Then he talked about the great moment of Pope Francis’ “evangelical strategy”, that “Global Educational Pact” that was launched during the pandemic. Argiolas started by quoting a council statement: «The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man» (GS 1). Then he continued: «As any other authentic global challenge, our challenge, the Mediterranean challenge needs to be tackled locally with intelligence and awareness, with our look opened to the horizon of the whole humanity. Only a global educational pact can give solidity to such process by focusing on human fraternity and turning the dialogue among all the method- as ὁδός (odós) route, path- to move forward».

Education is the leitmotif, the common denominator for the different aforementioned declinations of the pact: anthropological, communicative, economic, political, generational, interreligious, pedagogical and social aspects. All of them require a significant and continuous educational effort».

Let’s then go back to Giorgio La Pira’s question: «What is the ideal to present to our populations, both mature and young generations that have a huge impact on the city?» (U. De Siervo, G. Giovannoni, G. Giovannoni, Giorgio La Pira Sindaco. Scritti, discorsi e lettere, vol. II (1955-1957), Cultura Nuova Editrice, Firenze 1988, pp. 145-146). When Pope Francis launched his «invitation to dialogue on how we are shaping the future of our planet and the need to employ the talents of all, since all change requires an educational process aimed at developing a new universal solidarity and a more welcoming society» on 12 September 2019 (Francis, Message of his Holiness Pope Francis for the launch of the global pact on education) he perfectly understood, as Argiolas stated «the sign of the future of times: providing new generations with a “permanent education”, an urgency of the present to “dream” the future “with their feet on the ground”. This is a huge effort for everyone. However, the distance between who we are and being who we long for has a name for the Christian community: Jesus Crucified and Risen. He is the Lord of history and through Him, “pupil of the eye of God” (Cfr. G. Rossé, P. Coda, Il Grido d’Abbandono. Scrittura, Mistica, Teologia, Città Nuova, Roma 2020), we can look at our brothers and sisters and history in the communion with God and in the communion between men and the whole creation. Yes, as disciples of the Gospel, the good news addressed to everyone, in joy and freedom, we are called to announce and bear witness that “God, in Christ, redeems not only the individual person but also the social relations existing between men”» (Compendium of the Social doctrine of the Church, n. 52).