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Pope quotes Martin Luther King


Pope Francis Photo credit: Antoine Mekary | Aleteia - Martin Luther King | Public Domain

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 05/13/24

MLK noted the many technological advances of mankind and yet "we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers."

Pope Francis quoted American leader Martin Luther King, Jr., in a weekend event at the Vatican that brought together a unique crowd to focus on the theme of human fraternity.

I am reminded of a famous address of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said: “We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers” (Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1964).  Indeed, that is true. Let us ask ourselves, then: How can we, concretely, return to building up the art of a coexistence that is truly humane?

The Holy Father answered the question with a reflection on compassion, specifically as illustrated by Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

Their cultures were at odds, their histories different and contentious, but one became a brother to the other the moment he allowed himself to be guided by the compassion he felt for him. We could say that he allowed himself to be drawn to Jesus present in that wounded man. It is like the poet who, in one of his works, has Saint Francis of Assisi say: “The Lord is where your brothers are” (É. LECLERC, La sapienza di un povero).

The Pope noted the goal of the conference, to create an “outgoing movement of fraternity,” and mentioned how some proposals were being made to society, which center on the dignity of the human person.

I urge you not to be discouraged, because “persistent and courageous dialogue does not make headlines, but quietly helps the world to live much better than we imagine” (Frantelli tutti, 198).

War doesn’t work

In this context, Pope Francis reminded that war is a “deception” and “always a defeat,” as is “the idea of international security based on the deterrent of fear.”

To ensure lasting peace, we must return to a recognition of our common humanity and place fraternity at the center of peoples’ lives. Only in this way will we succeed in developing a model of coexistence capable of giving the human family a future. Political peace needs peace of hearts, so that people can come together in the confidence that life always overcomes all forms of death.


Pope Francis, a former literature teacher, often cites poets and other great thinkers in his addresses.

He has cited Martin Luther King, Jr., a number of times.

“Dr. King’s dream of harmony and equality for all people, attained through nonviolent and peaceful means, remains ever timely,” the Holy Father wrote in a 2021 letter to a commemorative event observing the life and legacy of the civil rights leader.

When Pope Francis addressed the US Congress in 2015, he also called on the example of Martin Luther King, along with Abraham Lincoln, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton.

On that occasion he recalled MLK’s famous “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans.

That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams.” Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

Pope FrancisSocietyUnited States
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