Pope Francis: ‘Each Country also Belongs to the Foreigner’

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ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty

ROME — Pope Francis has proposed “a different way of understanding relations and exchanges between countries” that minimizes the idea of citizenship in a particular nation and emphasizes the common humanity of all people.

In a new encyclical letter titled Fratelli Tutti (Brothers All), the pope asserts that the common destination of the earth’s goods “requires that this principle also be applied to nations, their territories and their resources.”

“Seen from the standpoint not only of the legitimacy of private property and the rights of its citizens, but also of the first principle of the common destination of goods,” the pontiff writes, “we can then say that each country also belongs to the foreigner, inasmuch as a territory’s goods must not be denied to a needy person coming from elsewhere.”

“If every human being possesses an inalienable dignity, if all people are my brothers and sisters, and if the world truly belongs to everyone,” he writes, “then it matters little whether my neighbour was born in my country or elsewhere.”

“My own country also shares responsibility for his or her development, although it can fulfil that responsibility in a variety of ways,” he adds. “It can offer a generous welcome to those in urgent need, or work to improve living conditions in their native lands by refusing to exploit those countries or to drain them of natural resources, backing corrupt systems that hinder the dignified development of their peoples.”

Justice among nations, the pontiff suggests, requires assistance to satisfy the “right to progress” of peoples outside one’s own country, and perhaps even the pardoning of international debt.

“Indeed, justice requires recognizing and respecting not only the rights of individuals, but also social rights and the rights of peoples,” Francis writes. “This means finding a way to ensure the fundamental right of peoples to subsistence and progress, a right which is at times severely restricted by the pressure created by foreign debt.”

“In many instances, debt repayment not only fails to promote development but gravely limits and conditions it,” he states. “While respecting the principle that all legitimately acquired debt must be repaid, the way in which many poor countries fulfil this obligation should not end up compromising their very existence and growth.”

“Certainly, all this calls for an alternative way of thinking,” the pope acknowledges. “Without an attempt to enter into that way of thinking, what I am saying here will sound wildly unrealistic.”

“On the other hand, if we accept the great principle that there are rights born of our inalienable human dignity, we can rise to the challenge of envisaging a new humanity,” he proposes. “We can aspire to a world that provides land, housing and work for all.”

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