Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Francis: Environmental destruction makes us like Cain, killing our brother

National Catholic Reporter
By Joshua J. McElwee

Pope Francis embraces a girl during a meeting with representatives of civil society Tuesday in the Church of St. Francis in Quito, Ecuador. At right is Ecuadorean Cardinal Raul Vela Chiriboga. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis embraces a girl during a meeting with representatives of civil society Tuesday in the Church of St. Francis in Quito, Ecuador. At right is Ecuadorean Cardinal Raul Vela Chiriboga. (CNS/Paul Haring)

QUITO, ECUADOR Pope Francis has strongly reaffirmed his recent environmental encyclical letter Laudato Si’, telling students and teachers in a moving visit to the Catholic university here that ecological care can no longer be just a recommendation but a requirement.

In words many have been waiting for during the pontiff’s three-day visit to a country bordering the Amazon rainforest, Francis told those at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador “one thing is clear.”

“We can no longer turn our backs on our reality, on our brothers and sisters, on mother earth,” the pope continued. “It is no longer licit for us to ignore what is happening to our surroundings as if certain situations did not exist or have nothing to do with our reality.”

71415_10635_0A Readers’ Guide to Laudato Si’, a free resource from NCR.

“Again and again comes the strength of that question of God to Cain: ‘Where is your brother?'” he said. “I ask if our response continues to be: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?'”
With such a strong reference to the Old Testament story of Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel, Francis appeared to be forcefully saying Tuesday that humanity is destroying the Earth but is not taking responsibility for the destruction.

The pontiff’s remarks may also carry special significance for many in Ecuador, where public debate has been sparked by President Rafael Correa’s plan to open resource mining in an internationally recognized nature reserve on the country’s eastern border with Peru.
In a meeting later Tuesday with members of Ecuadorian civil society, Francis touched upon the mining issued much more directly.

“Exploitation of natural resources, so abundant in Ecuador, must not seek immediate benefit,” he said at that meeting, held at Quito’s 16th-century Church of St. Francis.

“Being administrators of this richness we have received, we have an obligation towards society as a whole and towards future generations, to which we cannot hand down this heritage without a proper care of the environment,” he told those at that event.

The pope told the students and educators at the Catholic university that God gave humanity a mission by asking it to care for the environment.

“God does not only give us life: he gives us the Earth, creation,” Francis said. “He does not only give us a partner and endless possibilities: He also gives us an invitation; he gives us a mission.”
“He invites us to be part of his creative work and he says: ‘Cultivate! I am giving you seeds, soil, water and sun; I am giving you your hands and brothers and sisters,'” said the pontiff.
Creation, said Francis, “is a gift to be shared.”

“It is the space that God gives us to build up one another, to build an ‘us,'” said the pope. “The world, history, time — this is where we build the ‘us’ with God, the ‘us’ with others, the ‘us’ with the Earth.”

Francis, the first pope from the Americas, has been visiting Ecuador since Sunday as part of a weeklong sojourn that will also see him visit Bolivia and Paraguay.

Public reaction to the pontiff’s visit has been overwhelming, with two Masses celebrated by Francis Monday and Tuesday each attracting crowds of over a million people. Many have been camping out, or traveling extreme distances, to chance an in-person view of the pope.

Ecuadorian debate has focused on president Correa’s plan to allow mining operations in Yasuni National Park, a 2.5 million acre large nature preserve that has been called one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth and is also home to several uncontacted indigenous tribes.
Several local Catholic leaders said they had written letters to Francis, asking him to address the issue in his private meeting with Correa Monday afternoon.

Maribel León, an Ecuadorian who is the coordinator for missionary formation for the Quito archdiocese’s Pontifical Mission Societies, said the pope could point to his encyclical “to make our government understand that what [Correa] is doing to our environment is not positive.”

Correa, León said, is “taking our natural wealth, changing it for a financial wealth and eliminating the peoples’ living there.”

Francis told the civil society leaders Tuesday that the goods of the Earth “are meant for all and even though some might claim property, they are always under a social mortgage.”

“Thus the concept of economic justice, based on the principal of commerce, is superseded by the concept of social justice, which upholds the fundamental right of people to a dignified life,” he said.

With the educators and students Tuesday afternoon, Francis called on both groups to take specific actions to care for environment. He asked educators to teach students a critical sense to care for the world and students to use their studies to express solidarity with those less fortunate.

“It is urgent that we keep reflecting on and talking about our current situation,” the pope told all present. “We need to ask ourselves about the kind of culture we want not only for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren.”

“We have received this earth as an inheritance, as a gift, in trust,” he continued “We would do well to ask ourselves: What do we want to leave behind? What meaning do we want to give to our lives? Why have we been put on this world? For what do we work and fight?”

“As a university, as educational institutions, as teachers and students, life challenges us to respond to the questions: ‘What does this world need us for?’ ‘Where is your brother?'” said Francis.

The pope also spoke with the members of civil society about how different types of people can work together.

“The respect for others which we learn in the family finds social expression in subsidiarity,” he told the leaders.

“Assuming that our choices are not necessarily the only legitimate ones is a healthy exercise in humility,” said Francis. “In acknowledging the goodness inherent in others, even with their limitations, we see the richness present in diversity and the value of complementarity.”

“Individuals and groups have the right to go their own way, even though they may sometimes make mistakes,” the pope said.

The pontiff is to meet on Wednesday morning with Ecuadorian clergy and religious before heading on to Bolivia.

Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.

In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism

New York Times
By Jim Yardley and Binyamin Appelbaum

Pope Francis with children on Friday in Luque, Paraguay, the final leg of his Latin America trip. Credit Andres Stapff/Reuters
Pope Francis with children on Friday in Luque, Paraguay, the final leg of his Latin America trip. Credit Andres Stapff/Reuters

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”

Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.

The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.

“This is not theology as usual; this is him shouting from the mountaintop,” said Stephen F. Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic studies at Catholic University of America in Washington.

The last pope who so boldly placed himself at the center of the global moment was John Paul II, who during the 1980s pushed the church to confront what many saw as the challenge of that era, communism. John Paul II’s anti-Communist messaging dovetailed with the agenda of political conservatives eager for a tougher line against the Soviets and, in turn, aligned part of the church hierarchy with the political right.

Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor — a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalized in the days of John Paul II. Francis’ increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed — yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.

Pope Francis spoke in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on Thursday at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, a congress of global activists.In Bolivia, Pope Francis Apologizes for Church’s ‘Grave Sins’JULY 9, 2015

Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, in turn, have pushed the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the left.

Even some free-market champions are now reassessing the shortcomings of unfettered capitalism. George Soros, who made billions in the markets, and then spent a good part of it promoting the spread of free markets in Eastern Europe, now argues that the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

“I think the pope is singing to the music that’s already in the air,” said Robert A. Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, which was financed with $50 million from Mr. Soros. “ And that’s a good thing. That’s what artists do, and I think the pope is sensitive to the lack of legitimacy of the system.”

Many Catholic scholars would argue that Francis is merely continuing a line of Catholic social teaching that has existed for more than a century and was embraced even by his two conservative predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Leo XIII first called for economic justice on behalf of workers in 1891, with his encyclical “Rerum Novarum” — or, “On Condition of Labor.”

Mr. Schneck, of Catholic University, said it was as if Francis were saying, “We’ve been talking about these things for more than one hundred years, and nobody is listening.”

Francis has such a strong sense of urgency “because he has been on the front lines with real people, not just numbers and abstract ideas,” Mr. Schneck said. “That real-life experience of working with the most marginalized in Argentina has been the source of his inspiration as pontiff.”

Francis made his speech on Wednesday night, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, before nearly 2,000 social activists, farmers, trash workers and neighborhood activists. Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them. To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a “throwaway culture” tosses them aside. He sees them as being at the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.

In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localized organizations that he said provide productive economies for the poor. “How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!” he said on Wednesday night.

It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” released last month, drew loud criticism from some American conservatives and from others who found his language deeply pessimistic. His right-leaning critics also argued that he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion — while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.

“I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor — rather than just jumping from the reality of people’s misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem,” said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.

Francis’ sharpest critics have accused him of being a Marxist or a Latin American communist, even as he opposed communism during his time in Argentina. His tour last week of Latin America began in Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries with far-left governments. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who wore a Che Guevara patch on his jacket during Francis’ speech, claimed the pope as a kindred spirit — even as Francis seemed startled when Mr. Morales gave him a wooden crucifix shaped like a hammer and sickle as a gift.

Francis’ primary agenda last week was to begin renewing Catholicism in Latin America and repositioning it as the church of the poor. His apology for the church’s complicity in the colonialist era received an immediate roar from the crowd. In various parts of Latin America, the association between the church and economic power elites remains intact. In Chile, a socially conservative country, some members of the country’s corporate elite are also members of Opus Dei, the traditionalist Catholic organization founded in Spain in 1928.

Inevitably, Francis’ critique can be read as a broadside against Pax Americana, the period of capitalism regulated by global institutions created largely by the United States. But even pillars of that system are shifting. The World Bank, which long promoted economic growth as an end in itself, is now increasingly focused on the distribution of gains, after the Arab Spring revolts in some countries that the bank had held up as models. The latest generation of international trade agreements includes efforts to increase protections for workers and the environment.

The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” that rising wealth inequality is a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.

Mr. Piketty roiled the debate among mainstream economists, yet Francis’ critique is more unnerving to some because he is not reframing inequality and poverty around a new economic theory but instead defining it in moral terms. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy,” he said on Wednesday. “It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment.”

Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, said he believed Francis was making a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a “social mortgage” on accumulated wealth — a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. Mr. Hanauer said that economic elites should embrace the need for change both for moral and pragmatic reasons.

“I’m a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have,” said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government policies like a higher minimum wage.

Yet what remains unclear is whether Francis has a clear vision for a systemic alternative to the status quo that he and others criticize. “All these critiques point toward the incoherence of the simple idea of free market economics, but they don’t prescribe a remedy,” said Mr. Johnson, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Francis acknowledged as much, conceding on Wednesday that he had no new “recipe” to quickly change the world. Instead, he spoke about a “process of change” undertaken at the grass-roots level.

“What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with the hearts full of hopes and dreams but without any real solution for my problems?” he asked. “A lot! They can do a lot.
“You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands.”

Jim Yardley reported from Asunción, and Binyamin Appelbaum from Washington. Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting from New York, and Simon Romero from Asunción.

‘Pope of the Poor’ Francis apologizes for overlooking middle class woes

Religious News Service

Pope Francis speaks to journalists onboard the papal plane during his return to Rome, from Asuncion, Paraguay on July 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis speaks to journalists onboard the papal plane during his return to Rome, from Asuncion, Paraguay on July 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis acknowledged on Monday he had neglected problems of the middle class and said he was willing to have a dialogue with Americans who disagree with his criticism of capitalism. Francis, speaking to reporters on the papal plane returning from a grueling 8-day trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, also said he hoped the Greek crisis could lead to more oversight so other countries would not experience the same problems. During the hour-long conversation with the Francis, who has made defence of the poor a major plank of his papacy, a reporter asked why he had hardly ever spoken about the problems of the “working, tax-paying” middle class. He offered a rare papal mea culpa, thanking the reporter for his “good correction.” “You’re right. It’s an error of mine not to think about this,” he said. “The world is polarized. The middle class becomes smaller. The polarization between the rich and poor is big. This is true. And, perhaps this has led me to not take account of this (the problems of the middle class),” he said. Francis said he spoke about the poor often because they were so numerous but that ordinary working people had “great value.” “I think you’re telling me about something I need to do. I need to do delve further into this ….,” he said The pope, who is due to visit Cuba and the United States in September, said he was willing to have a dialogue with Americans who have seen his criticism of the global economic system and capitalism as an attack on their way of life. “I heard that there were some criticisms from the United States … I haven’t had time to study this well but every criticism must be received, studied and then dialogue must follow,” he said. He sought to downplay the Vatican’s part in the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, even though both Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro have praised him for it. He said the Holy See had done “only small things” to facilitate the accord that led to the resumption of diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of enmity. Asked if Cuba now risked losing parts of its identity, he said both sides would lose something but “both will gain peace, encounter, friendship, collaboration.” He refused to be discuss Cuba’s human rights record, saying human rights were for all and that there were a number of countries, including several in Europe, where religious freedom was not totally respected. Asked about the Greek crisis, he said “it would be too simple to say that the fault is only on one side.” “I hope that they find a way to resolve the Greek problem and also a way to have oversight so that the same problem will not fall on other countries. This will help us move forward because this path of loans and debts, in the end, it never ends.” Francis said he “did not feel offended” when Bolivian President Evo Morales gave him a gift of a sculpture with the body of a crucified Jesus nailed to a hammer and sickle – the symbol of communism. The sculpture was a replica of a creation by Jesuit priest Luis Espial Camp, an artist and poet who was a strong defender of miners’ rights and was killed by a Bolivian right-wing paramilitary squad in 1980. Francis said the sculpture should be seen as “protest art” and a product of its times, when some Roman Catholic priests were involved in forms of Liberation Theology that used Marxist political analysis to help the poor. Francis said he brought the gift back to the Vatican with him. Several times during the freewheeling conversation that has become a standard of papal flights, he showed his humour despite signs of fatigue. “I never tasted coca (leaves), let’s be clear about that,” he said, when asked how he managed to keep up the demanding pace at age 78. There was speculation that he might have chewed coca leaves to ward off altitude sickness in Bolivia. He said he felt like “a great-grandfather” when young people asked to take selfies with him. “It’s another culture … I respect it,” he said.