Pope calls for lasting peace built on social justice and the care of the common home

Francis released a video message to the participants of the second session of the 4th World Meeting of Popular Movements (EMMP), underway online today. The social doctrine of the Catholic Church highlights “principles such as the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, participation, and the common good. These are all ways in which the Good News of the Gospel takes concrete form”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In a video message, Pope Francis invites participants in the 4th World Meeting of Popular Movements, underway today online, to put the economy at the service of peoples and build a lasting peace based on social justice and care for the common home. 

In a long message addressed to those groups that he defines as a grassroots alliance, present mainly in Latin America, Francis urges them to "dream" of a just society and "act" to obtain “some concrete measures that may allow for significant changes”, such as “A basic income (the UBI) or salary so that everyone in the world may have access to the most basic necessities of life”, or “the reduction of the working day” so that “more people can have access to the labour market”.

The speech starts from the realisation that the pandemic has delivered disease and death. “In many countries, governments reacted. They listened to the science”. However, the pandemic has also led to “the scourge of the food crisis.”

“[S]evere destitution has increased; and the price of food has risen sharply. The numbers relating to hunger are horrific, and I think, for example, of countries like Syria, Haiti, Congo, Senegal, Yemen, South Sudan. But hunger is also felt in many other poor countries of the world, and not infrequently in the rich world as well.”

At the same time, “We also experience[d] resistance to the changes we need and long for, many forms of resistance that run deep, that are rooted beyond our strength and decisions. They are what the Social Teaching of the Church calls structures of sin; these too we are called to change, and we cannot overlook them in the moment of thinking of how to act.”

“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 thinking about these situations, I make a pest of myself with my questions. And I go on asking. 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.”

The Holy Francis asks financial groups “to allow poor countries to assure “the basic needs of their people” and “cancel [their] debts” while urging “the great extractive industries [. . .] to stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people”.

He goes on to 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”; and tells arms manufacturers and dealers “to completely stop their activity” and technology giants “to stop exploiting human weakness, people’s vulnerability, for the sake of profits”.

Likewise, the pontiff urges telecommunications giants “to ease access to educational material” and communication 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.”

Finally, “In the name of God,” Francis calls “on powerful countries to stop aggression, blockades and unilateral sanctions against any country anywhere on earth.”

Thus, he says “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.”

These goals are part of the so-called “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs), backed by the United Nations, to be achieved by pushing governments and others. “This system,” writes Francis, “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.”

“[I]t is up to governments to establish tax and redistribution schemes so that the wealth of one part of society is shared fairly, but without imposing an unbearable burden, especially upon the middle class. Generally, when conflicts arise in this matter, it is the middle class that suffers most.”

For Francis, the protests that followed the death of George Floyd are the expression of a “collective Samaritan”. Hence, he urges people to be like “the Good Samaritan, to tend attentively to all those who are stricken along the way, and at the same time, to ensure that many more join in”.

The Pope cites Catholic social doctrine in which “we find principles such as the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, participation, and the common good. These are all ways in which the Good News of the Gospel takes concrete form on a social and cultural level.”

In such a context, he mentions “the principle of solidarity. Solidarity not only as a moral virtue but also as a social principle: a principle that seeks to confront unjust systems with the aim of building a culture of solidarity that expresses, the Compendium literally says, ‘a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good’.”

“Another principle is to stimulate and promote participation and subsidiarity between movements and between peoples, capable of thwarting any authoritarian mindset, any forced collectivism or any state-centric mindset. The common good cannot be used as an excuse to quash private initiative, local identity or community projects.

“Therefore, these principles promote an economy and politics that recognise the role of popular movements, ‘the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth’.”