Pope Francis on Saturday delivered a speech that demanded powerful institutions, private and public, change their ways of operating to better serve humanity. The Pope was speaking at the IV World Meeting of Popular Movements (WMPM), his own initiative for grassroots organizations and church leadership to work together for structural changes that promote social, economic and racial justice.
The speech began with these uplifting words -
Brothers, sisters, dear social poets,
1. Dear social poets
This is what I like to call you: social poets. You are social poets, because you have the ability and the courage to create hope where there appears to be only waste and exclusion. Poetry means creativity, and you create hope. With your hands you know how to shape the dignity of each person, of families and of society as a whole, with land, housing, work, care, and community.
Here are some key stanzas from the speech -
Personal change is necessary, but it is also indispensable to adjust our socio-economic models so that they have a human face, because many models have lost it. And I ask everyone in the name of God.
I ask all the great pharmaceutical laboratories to release the patents. Make a gesture of humanity and allow every country, every people, every human being, to have access to the vaccines. There are countries where only three or four per cent of the inhabitants have been vaccinated.
In the name of God, I ask financial groups and international credit institutions to allow poor countries to assure “the basic needs of their people” and to cancel those debts that so often are contracted against the interests of those same peoples.
In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries -- mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness -- to stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people.
In the name of God, I ask the great food corporations to stop imposing monopolistic systems of production and distribution that inflate prices and end up withholding bread from the hungry.
In the name of God, I ask arms manufacturers and dealers to completely stop their activity, because it foments violence and war, it contributes to those awful geopolitical games which cost millions of lives displaced and millions dead.
In the name of God, I ask the technology giants to stop exploiting human weakness, people’s vulnerability, for the sake of profits without caring about the spread of hate speech, grooming, fake news, conspiracy theories, and political manipulation.
In the name of God, I ask the telecommunications giants to ease access to educational material and connectivity for teachers via the internet so that poor children can be educated even under quarantine.
In the name of God, I ask the media to stop the logic of post-truth, disinformation, defamation, slander and the unhealthy attraction to dirt and scandal, and to contribute to human fraternity and empathy with those who are most deeply damaged.
In the name of God, I call on powerful countries to stop aggression, blockades and unilateral sanctions against any country anywhere on earth. No to neo-colonialism. Conflicts must be resolved in multilateral fora such as the United Nations. We have already seen how unilateral interventions, invasions and occupations end up; even if they are justified by noble motives and fine words.
This system, with its relentless logic of profit, is escaping all human control. It is time to slow the locomotive down, an out-of-control locomotive hurtling towards the abyss. There is still time.
Together with the poor of the earth, I wish to ask governments in general, politicians of all parties, to represent their people and to work for the common good. I want to ask them for the courage to look at their own people, to look people in the eye, and the courage to know that the good of a people is much more than a consensus between parties (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 218). Let them stop listening exclusively to the economic elites, who so often spout superficial ideologies that ignore humanity's real dilemmas. May they be servants of the people who demand land, work, housing and good living. This aboriginal good living or buen vivir is not the same as “la dolce vita” or “sweet idleness”, no. This is good human living that puts us in harmony with all humanity, with all creation.
I also want to ask all of us religious leaders never to use the name of God to foment wars or coups (cf. Document on Human Fraternity, 2019). Let us stand by the peoples, the workers, the humble, and let us struggle together with them so that integral human development may become a reality. Let us build bridges of love so that the voices of the periphery with their weeping, but also with their singing and joy, provoke not fear but empathy in the rest of society.
In another part of his talk, he praised the protests over the death of George Floyd, connecting them to the parable of the Good Samaritan:
Do you know what comes to mind now when, together with popular movements, I think of the Good Samaritan? Do you know what comes to mind? The protests over the death of George Floyd. It is clear that this type of reaction against social, racial or macho injustice can be manipulated or exploited by political machinations or whatever, but the main thing is that, in that protest against this death, there was the Collective Samaritan who is no fool! This movement did not pass by on the other side of the road when it saw the injury to human dignity caused by an abuse of power. The popular movements are not only social poets but also collective Samaritans.
The Pope even mentioned UBI and shortening the workday as examples of concrete steps that can be taken.
Please take a few moments to read the full speech, which is quite extraordinary in its depth and breadth.
And of course, this is not the first time Pope Francis has spoken about these issues and it won’t be the last.
Here is the video with sub-titles -
This is certainly a good and comprehensive list of institutions, the harm they are causing and what changes are required of each institutional category. How one achieves these goals is a tough climb; Pope Francis himself admits that — “The social teaching of the Church does not have all the answers, but it does have some principles that along this journey can help to concretize the answers, principles useful to Christians and non-Christians alike.” The Pope’s words are influential and they inspire and provide a guiding light to many grassroots organizations. Hopefully, they will also provide some clarity to many rudderless minds whose opinions and knowledge are shaped by their own selfish interests and by random bits of disinformation on social media. Hopefully, they will provide some food for thought to CEOs and world leaders as well.
In our 24-hour news and social media cycle, which is generally filled with hate, blame, rage, doom & gloom and attacks on one another, these words by Pope Francis provide a good perspective of the big picture and provide a road-map of what can be done and what needs to be done.
What do you think?
- Pope to Popular Movements: You create hope and forge dignity — www.vaticannews.va/…
- VIDEO MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON THE OCCASION OF THE FOURTH WORLD MEETING OF POPULAR MOVEMENTS — www.vatican.va/...