Pope Francis in his latest prayer video places a spotlight on the problem of corruption, saying that it is the root of most societal evils and praying that those in power would be able to resist its allure.
The video, released Feb. 1, opens with the dramatic image of a young girl with a dirty face and clothes holding an infant, and who appears to be part of a group of migrants or refugees.
This image is followed by a series of others showing child laborers and buildings destroyed by bombs as the Pope speaks in his native Spanish, asking, “What is at the root of slavery, unemployment and disregard for nature and goods held in common?”
As the music transitions to the sound of shattering glass, the Pope says the answer is “corruption,” which he describes as “a process of death that feeds the culture of death.” This, he says, is “because the thirst for power and possessions knows no limits.”
The screen, showing an image of a prostitute soliciting customers, is dissolved and replaced by an image of a beach filled with waste, which in turn is followed by an image of an Italian monument commemorating the 1992 “Strage di Capaci,” referring to a massacre in which Sicilian mafia branch Cosa Nostra killed anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falconi, his wife and their three bodyguards.
This image is then replaced by someone opening a briefcase of money and passing a handful to another person behind his back.
“Corruption,” Francis says, “is not countered with silence. We must speak about it, denounce its evils and try to understand it so as to show our resolve to make mercy reign over meanness, beauty over nothingness.”
As he speaks, images of nature, the Pieta and the Sistine Chapel are shown. Francis then closes his video asking viewers to join him in praying “that those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption.”
Corruption is one of the topics Pope Francis has been most outspoken about since the beginning of his papacy almost five years ago, saying in one 2016 general audience that to be corrupt “is to become a follower of the devil, the father of lies.”
He recently returned to the topic during his Jan. 18-21 visit to Peru, which is one of several Latin American countries to be hit with a wide-scale corruption scandal involving several of their former presidents, and accusations against sitting President, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski Godard.
In his address to diplomats and civil authorities, the Pope said Peru is a country that has a lot of hope, but warned that “a shadow is growing” through corruption that could smother the potential to do good.
Corruption “increasingly contaminates the whole system of life,” he said.
In a forward for “Corrosion,” a book-length interview of Cardinal Peter Turkson published in June 2017, Pope Francis said corruption is a “cancer that (burdens) our lives.”
He said phenomena such as exploitation, human trafficking, weapon and drug trafficking, social injustices, slavery, unemployment, and carelessness for nature can all be traced back to corruption, which is “a profound cultural question that needs to be addressed.”
And the Church, he said, “must listen, raise herself and bend herself on the sorrows and hopes of people according to mercy, and must do so without fear of purifying herself, assiduously seeking a way to improve.”
An initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s prayer videos are filmed in collaboration with Vatican Media and Argentinian marketing association La Machi.
The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.
Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, universal intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.
However, as of last year, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis opted to have only one prepared prayer intention — the universal intention featured in the prayer video — and will add a second intention for an urgent or immediate need should one arise.
In a press release for the new video, Cardinal Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said “we shouldn't speak about resolving the issue of corruption in theory.” Rather, “we should confront corruption in every sector. It is the poor who pay for the parties of the corrupt.”
According to the release, the video is the latest in a series of initiatives from the dicastery aimed at drawing attention to the worldwide problem of corruption.
Among these initiatives was a June 15, 2017 conference on corruption that coincided with the release of Turkson's book. The dicastery will also be hosting a conference on corruption in Naples Feb. 3, where the Pope's prayer video will be shown.