Friday, March 18, 2011
The Example of Giorgio La Pira
Pope Benedict XVI, in a recent meeting with the National Association of Italian Local Authorities, mentioned Giorgio La Pira as a positive model for mayors. Similarly, his predecessor, the great Pope John Paul II also held up the former Mayor of Florence as an exemplary Christian and public leader. On this, the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification, we can only hope that the country that gave birth to La Pira will find inspiration for the future in his life and works. Today's ruling in the European Court of Human Rights allowing Italian public schools to continue to display the crucifix is a great sign. However, more work must be done to strengthen Christianity in Italy and in the West in general.
To be sure, while Giorgio La Pira represented a political tradition that was strongly Christian in its economic and social/cultural values, La Pira was always respectful of other cultures and peoples. La Pira was famous for his activities promoting peace in the Middle East and Vietnam and between cultures generally. After La Pira's death, Italian, Israeli, and Palestinian children placed a lamp upon his tomb bearing the words "Peace, Shalom, Salaam," a clear indication of La Pira's lifelong campaign to promote peace between peoples. The fact that the last two popes have held up such a man as a model for public figures everywhere should give pause for thought to the Dawkinsites and others who constantly attack the Holy See for its supposed bigotry and intolerance.
Indeed, the political thought of La Pira is exactly the opposite of the caricature of political Catholicism as a hopelessly reactionary and benighted tradition. For example, La Pira embraced Keynesian economics and the necessity of full employment in order to preserve the dignity of the worker. As La Pira himself once remarked:
"If I am a man of the State, my rejection of unemployment and of neediness must imply this: my economic policies must strive towards blue-collar employment and the eradication of poverty: this is clear! No specious objection emerging from any so-called "laws of economics" can detract me from striving towards this objective."
What a stark contrast to today's politicians who simply ignore the unemployed, forgetting how many lives will be ruined by the recession and the cowardly refusal to intervene on behalf of the victims of private avarice. While La Pira was extremely humble in life, often giving his clothes away to the homeless and sleeping in an unheated monastery cell, his spirit towers like a colossus on the horizon, putting to shame the small men of the neoliberal order and presenting the bright example of a viable Christian alternative to today's selfish and uncaring socioeconomic system.