In an address to international NGOs on Thursday, Pope Francis said the poor and marginalized have an irreplaceable role to play in reversing what he calls the global dictatorship of greed. “This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable,” the Pope said. “The earth itself — our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say — also finds it intolerable.” “You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot,” he continued. “I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands.” Pope Francis made his comments in a colorful, lengthy address to the Second World Meeting of the Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The three day congress gathers international NGOs to discuss modern challenges facing the poor and marginalized. The Vatican hosted the First World Meeting of the Popular Movements last October. Bolivia is the second of three stops on the Pope’s trip to South America. He visited Ecuador July 5-8 and will spend a few days in Bolivia before heading to Paraguay on July 10 to finish his visit. During his remarks, the Pope echoed many of the points in his recent environment encyclical, “Laudato Si.” He lamented global exclusion and injustice; the farmer with no land, the family with no home, the worker with no rights. He warned that unfettered greed is the driving force behind these injustices. “Behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called 'the dung of the devil,'” he said. “An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind.” “Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.” “Let’s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change,” he said, adding that even those who are benefiting from the current status quo have become dissatisfied and despondent. Pope Francis said change is urgently needed, but it will also take time. He said change is also not dependent on one political decision or change in social structure. To illustrate his point, the Pope adopted a phrase he heard during his time in Bolivia: “process of change.” “We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in bureaucratization, corruption and failure,” he said. “That is why I like the image of a “process”, where the drive to sow, to water seeds which others will see sprout, replaces the ambition to occupy every available position of power and to see immediate results.” He also said human relationships are the major agents of change in society. “Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of children and the elderly, of peoples and communities...of names and faces which fill our hearts. From those seeds of hope patiently sown in the forgotten fringes of our planets, from those seedlings of a tenderness which struggles to grow amid the shadows of exclusion, great trees will spring up, great groves of hope to give oxygen to our world.” Pope Francis then laid out three main goals for the NGOs gathered at the Expo Feria in Santa Cruz. First, put the economy at the service of the people, the Pope said. “Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money,” he continued. “Let us say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.” The Pope called for communitarian economy, which he said is not only possible but a moral obligation. “For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment,” he said. “It is about giving to the poor and to the peoples what is theirs by right. The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching. It is a reality prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples. And those needs are not restricted to consumption.” The Pope then urged NGOs to work to unite communities in justice and peace. He praised growing collaboration and fraternity between many Latin American countries. But, despite this progress the Pope warned colonialism still rears its head in new and old ways. “At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain “free trade” treaties, and the imposition of measures of “austerity” which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor,” the Pope cautioned. “The world’s peoples want to be artisans of their own destiny..They do not want forms of tutelage or interference by which those with greater power subordinate those with less,” he said. “They want their culture, their language, their social processes and their religious traditions to be respected. No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice to possibility of peace and justice.” The Pope also urged NGOs to work to protect the environment, an issue he described as “perhaps the most important facing us today.” “Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin,” he said.” “I ask you, in the name of God, to defend Mother Earth.” Pope Francis promised his solidarity with the NGOs as they work to uproot global injustice and poverty. Though he admitted that even he doesn’t have a recipe to fix all the problems of the world. “Don’t expect a recipe from this Pope,” he said. “Neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social reality or the proposal of solutions to contemporary issues. I dare say that no recipe exists. History is made by each generation as it follows in the footsteps of those preceding it, as it seeks its own path and respects the values which God has placed in the human heart.” He urged the NGOs to seek creative solutions to modern-day crises. He also cautioned NGOs to be on wary of ideological misguidance. “Be creative and never stop being rooted in local realities, since the father of lies is able to usurp noble words, to promote intellectual fads and to adopt ideological stances. But if you build on solid foundations, on real needs and on the lived experience of your brothers and sisters, of campesinos and natives, of excluded workers and marginalized families, you will surely be on the right path.”
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