Sisterhood, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace

The following is not quite what was reported by the Vatican news service on August 1:

“Sisterhood, the foundation and pathway to peace”. This is the theme of the 47th World Day of Peace, the first during the pontificate of Pope Francis.

The World Day of Peace was an initiative of Pope Paul VI and it is celebrated on the first day of each year. The Message for the World Day of Peace is sent to particular churches and chancelleries all around the world, drawing attention to the essential value of peace and the need to work tirelessly in order to attain it.

As the theme of his first Message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Francis has chosen Sisterhood. Since the beginning of his Petrine Ministry, the Pope has stressed the need to combat the “throwaway culture” and to promote instead a “culture of encounter”, in order to build a more just and peaceful world.

Sisterhood is a dowry that every woman and every man brings with herself or himself as a human being, as a child of the one Father. In the face of the many tragedies that afflict the family of nations – poverty, hunger, underdevelopment, conflicts, migrations, pollution, inequalities, injustice, organized crime, fundamentalisms – sisterhood is the foundation and the pathway to peace.

The culture of personal well-being leads to a loss of the sense of responsibility and sisterly relationship. Others, rather than being “like us”, appear more as antagonists or enemies and are often treated as objects. Not uncommonly, the poor and needy are regarded as a “burden”, a hindrance to development. At most, they are considered as recipients of aid or compassionate assistance. They are not seen as sisters and brothers, called to share the gifts of creation, the goods of progress and culture, to be partakers at the same table of the fullness of life, to be protagonists of integral and inclusive development.

Sisterhood, a gift and task that comes from God, urges us to be in solidarity against inequality and poverty that undermine the social fabric, to take care of every person, especially the weakest and most defenceless, to love her or him as oneself, with the very heart of Jesus Christ.

In a world that is constantly growing more interdependent, the good of sisterhood is one that we cannot do without. It serves to defeat the spread of the globalization of indifference to which Pope Francis has frequently referred. The globalization of indifference must give way to a globalization of sisterhood.

Sisterhood should leave its mark on every aspect of life, including the economy, finance, civil society, politics, research, development, public and cultural institutions.

At the start of his ministry, Pope Francis issues a message in continuity with that of his predecessors, which proposes to everyone the pathway of sisterhood, in order to give the world a more human face.

I have made only three changes to the text as released:
– replaced “fraternity” (brotherhood) with “sisterhood”
– replaced “fraternal” (brotherly) with “sisterly”
– reversed the ordering of inclusive language phrases

My original motivation was simply to be able to relate to the text as if it included me, as was surely the pope’s intent that I be able to do.

But having made this change, I realized that if we speak of sisterhood rather than brotherhood, then the screamingly obvious connection to make is to the work of the vowed women religious sisters, including that of the LCWR, who so clearly and consistently exemplify the values which Pope Francis here urges.

Actually, I first replaced fraternal/fraternity with their precise equivalents sororal/sorority. The connection then became apparent to me, because I have enough Latin not to trip over sororal, or to associate sorority only with groups of women in college. I decided to replace the Latin cognates by their English equivalents in order to help make it more generally apparent.

From the inclusive language phrases that I was glad to see do exist in this press release, it seems clear that Pope Francis intends to promote a value that applies equally to women and to men, in that all people are to relate to each other as sisters and brothers.

Isn’t it ironic that this message which so well describes the work of our religious sisters was instead framed in terms of “brotherhood”?

Wouldn’t it have been something if he’d used “sisterhood” instead? That would have made so much more sense with the “dowry” metaphor at the start of paragraph four.

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