The International Rule of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP) is quite clear in stating that our purpose is the service to the poor and marginalized, especially to “those in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, or political opinions” (Article 1.4). Similarly, the Rule defends equality between people, stating that “the Society makes no distinction regarding gender, wealth, occupation, social status or ethnic origin” (Article 3.2).
Based on these basic and irrevocable principles, we can never tolerate any kind of discrimination or prejudice between people, because we are all equally children of God and were created by Him, with all faculties, potential and virtues. “God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created man and woman” (Genesis 1, 7).
Just as the Holy Catholic Church exhorts, we of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul repudiate any kind of segregation or violence against any individual. We defend respect for life at all stages, the dignity of persons and human rights. “Treat everyone with due respect: love your brothers and sisters, fear God” (1 Peter 2, 17).
We need to build societies that are more just and collaborative, more fraternal and supportive, and above all more centered on Gospel values. The world needs love. The reason for the existence of hunger, poverty, violence, indifference and wars is the absence of Christ in the hearts of men and women. “God is love. Everyone who remains in love remains in God, and God in him” (1 John 4, 16).
In Christ, tolerance is transformed into brotherly love, into tenderness, into generosity. We Vincentians have the responsibility and mission to bring these values to the people around us. We pray that any social movement may always happen peacefully, without generating harm to others, as Our Lord Jesus Christ asked of us. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God!” (Matthew 5, 9).
Paris, June 4th, 2020.
Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th President General