Today, October 22, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of my favorite saint, the Polish Pope St. John Paul II, one of the greatest pontiffs in the history of Christianity.
Karol Wojtyla bequeathed to the world many thoughts that are highly recommended in addressing the great moral, political and social problems of our time. I have decided to recall some of his quotes on two issues that often generate great debates: patriotism and nationalism.
Patriotism and unity
“Love of our country unites us and must unite us above all divergences. It has nothing in common with a narrow nationalism or chauvinism, but springs from the law of the human heart. It is a measure of man’s nobility: a measure that has been put to the test many times during our difficult history.” (Letter to the people of Poland, 23 October, 1978)
Patriotism and universality
“The People of God, precisely because it is unity in variety, a community of men and diverse peoples -” linguarum multarum “, to put it in words of the liturgy of Pentecost – that do not lose their diversity, appears as an omen and figure; moreover, as the germ and vital principle of universal peace. Because the harmonious communion in the diversity that is given in the People of God, causes the desire that the same thing happens in the universe. Moreover, what happens in the People of God, serves as a basis for believing the same among men.
In this sense, universality, an essential dimension in the People of God, does not oppose or conflict with patriotism. On the contrary, it integrates it, reinforcing in it the values it has; especially the love of one’s own country, led, if necessary, to the point of sacrifice; but at the same time opening the patriotism of each to the patriotism of others, so that they are intercommunicated and enriched.
True and lasting peace must be a mature fruit of a successful integration of patriotism and universality.“ (Address to the Bishops of Argentina, Buenos Aires, June 12, 1982)
Patriotism and solidarity
“Among the many considerations that could be made here, the Pope wants to refer to a concrete one: piety in civil life, known in our time as love of one’s own country or patriotism. For a Christian it is a manifestation, with facts, of Christian love; it is also the fulfillment of the fourth commandment, for piety, in the sense we have been saying, includes – as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us (Summa Theologiae, II-IIæ, 101, a, 3, ad 1) to honor the parents, ancestors, the country. The Second Vatican Council has also left a luminous teaching in this respect. It says: “Let the citizens cultivate with magnanimity and loyalty the love of the country, but without a narrow mind, so that they always look also for the good of the whole human family, united by all kinds of links between the races, and the nations” (Gaudium et Spes, 75).
Consider, therefore, that the love of God the Father, projected in the love of the country, should lead you to feel united and in solidarity with all men. I repeat: with everyone! Think also that the best way of preserving the freedom that your parents have bequeathed to you is, above all, to increase those virtues – such as tenacity, the spirit of initiative, the breadth of vision – that contribute to making your land a place more prosperous, fraternal and welcoming.” (Homily at Benjamin Matienzo Airport in Tucumán during his apostolic voyage to Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, April 8, 1987)
Patriotism against separatism
“The corporatist tendencies and the separatist threats can be decisively overcome by an honest attitude of love for the good of one’s nation and by acting with renewed solidarity. This solidarity must be lived not only within the country, but also in relation to Europe and the Third World. Love for one’s own nation and solidarity with all humanity are not incompatible with an individual’s ties with his region and his local community, where he was born, and the duties he has towards these. Solidarity, rather, pervades all the communities in which an individual lives: the family, in the first place, the regional and local community, the nation, the continent, the whole of humanity: solidarity animates them, bringing them together according to the principle of subsidiarity, which accords to each of them the right level of autonomy.” (Letter to Italian Bishops working for moral and cultural rebirth of the society, 6 January, 1994)
Patriotism against nationalism
“In this context, we need to clarify the essential difference between an unhealthy form of nationalism, which teaches contempt for other nations or cultures, and patriotism, which is a proper love of one’s country. True patriotism never seeks to advance the well-being of one’s own nation at the expense of others. For in the end this would harm one’s own nation as well: doing wrong damages both aggressor and victim. Nationalism, particularly in its most radical forms, is thus the antithesis of true patriotism, and today we must ensure that extreme nationalism does not continue to give rise to new forms of the aberrations of totalitarianism.” (Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, New York, 5 October 1995)
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