Pope Francis visits patients at the Villa Speranza hospice, which is connected to Gemelli Hospital, in Rome Sept. 16. The visit was part of the pope's series of Friday works of mercy during the Holy Year. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout) See POPE-MERCY-FRIDAY-LIFE Sept. 16, 2016.

‘We all need each other’

Pope Francis used social media—a first in the papacy’s history—to address an international conference of diverse personalities including politicians, artists, entertainers, venture capitalists, and founders of the biggest tech companies. The powerful leader of the Catholic Church took part in the nonprofit talk series TED2017 late last month in Vancouver.

Francis’ latest leap into the digital world affirms he is quite savvy in social media. He is reported to have nine Twitter accounts, each in a different language. His most popular handle is his Spanish one, @Pontifex_es, which claims 12.8 million followers. In total, 23.41 million people follow his accounts.

The Pope’s talk on TED titled “Why the only future worth building includes everyone” was reportedly a huge undertaking, filmed in his home in the Vatican and edited and translated by a group of 40 translators. The video has generated millions of views on TED’s website, and can be viewed on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=36zrJfAFcuc).

Both to those in power and not, Francis gave a message of hope and called for equality, solidarity and tenderness to prevail. He said: “Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the ‘other’ is not a statistic, or a number. We all need each other.

“I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent ‘I’ separated from the other, and we can build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is
connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state.”

In a remark that reminded me of the recent United Airlines PR crisis, Francis cautioned leaders against focusing on products and systems instead of the people they serve. He said that only by educating people to a true solidarity would we be able to overcome the “culture of waste” that puts products, and not people, at the core. He noted the habit of people who call themselves “respectable” of not taking care of others, thus leaving thousands of human beings, or entire populations, by the wayside.

Francis underscored the value of human life when he said: “Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around. To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. …. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another ‘you,’ and another ‘you,’ and it turns into an ‘us.’ And so, does hope begin when we have an ‘us’? No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ When there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution … a revolution of tenderness.”

He encouraged those in positions of power to act humbly, saying that tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women, and that it is not weakness but fortitude.

“Please allow me to say it loud and clear,” he said. “The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: ‘Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.’ You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.”

And finally he said: “The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’ We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us.”

It’s clear that the Pope’s role-modeling underscores his message in a world that equates power with muscle-flexing. It offers an example of better leadership for some leaders who speak mostly in boastful expletives. It’s an immediate illustration of humility in leadership.


Charlie A. Agatep (charlie.agatep@ grupoagatep.com) is chair and CEO of Grupo Agatep

This was originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on May 16, 2017.