Vatican City, Nov 5, 2016 / 02:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a lengthy, wide-ranging speech to members of international NGOs, Pope Francis offered a clear and stern warning against modern attitudes of fear that close us to others and ultimately ruin society, suggesting love and collaboration as opposed to false solutions as a remedy.
In his Nov. 5 address, Pope Francis noted that the need for a dignified life and a change in societal structures focused on in the previous global encounter takes time, and is being threatened by “a growing destructive mechanism which operates in the opposite direction.”
Pointing to the problem of “terror and walls,” the Pope said powerful forces exist “that can neutralize this process of maturity of a change capable of displacing the primacy of money and putting the human being back in the center.” “This unjust structure that links all exclusions...can harden and become a whip, an existential whip that enslaves, steals liberty, plunders without mercy and constantly threatens others, to drive everyone like cattle to what the divinized money wants,” he said.
Francis explained that there is “a basic terrorism” that emanates from the global control of money against humanity as a whole. From this basic terrorism, he said, “derived terrorisms” such as narcoterrorism, state terrorism “and what some mistakenly call ethnic or religious terrorism” are fed. “No people, no religion is terrorist. It’s certain, there are small groups of fundamentalists everywhere on all sides. But terrorism begins when you have rejected the wonder of creation, man and woman, and put money there. This system is terrorist.”
Both the Church and the prophets for millennia have said “what is so scandalous that the Pope repeats at this time when everything reaches unpublished expressions,” Francis continued, explaining that the entire social doctrine of the Church and the Magisterium of his predecessors “rebel against the money-idol that reins in place of service, tyrannizes and terrifies humanity.”
“No tyranny is supported without exploiting our fears. Hence all tyranny is terrorist,” continued, add that in this terror, “sown in the peripheries” with massacres, looting, oppression and injustice, citizens who still maintain some rights “are tempted with the false security of physical or social walls.” “Walls that enclose some and banish others. Citizens walled, terrified, on one side; excluded, exiled and even more terrified, on the other. Is this the life that God the Father wants for his children?” he asked, explaining that fear “feeds and manipulates.”
This, he said, is in addition to being “a good business for the merchants of arms and death,” fear weakens, unbalances and destroys us and our psychological and spiritual defenses; “it anesthetizes us in front of the suffering of others and in the end makes us cruel.” When we hear about the death of someone who took the wrong path or see a growing preference for war and the spread of xenophobia, “behind this cruelty that seems to be massified there is the cold breath of fear.”
Pope Francis asked that those present pray for all who are afraid, so that God would give them courage to soften their hearts, because “mercy isn’t easy, it requires courage.”
The Pope’s comments were made to the nearly 5,000 participants in the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements, essentially a group of international NGOs, gathered in Rome Nov. 2-5 to discuss what Pope Francis calls in Spanish the “Three T’s: Trabajo, Techo, Tierra.” In English, it translates roughly as: “Work, Home and Land.” A special emphasis was placed on the care of creation, migrants and refugees. At its heart, the congress gathers international NGOs to discuss modern challenges facing the poor and marginalized.
The Vatican hosted the First World Meeting of the Popular Movements in October 2014, and Pope Francis addressed the Second World Meeting in Bolivia during his 2015 tour of South America. Before the Pope’s arrival, participants sang, watched videos, listened to various reflections and heard testimonies surrounding the topics of small farmers, the care of creation, families in difficulty and the centrality of the human person.
Upon his arrival he was welcomed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Also in attendance is the former president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica. In his speech, the Pope stressed the need to promote “love and bridges” as a remedy for the fear and walls that increasingly go up in a world marked by conflict and inequality.
He recalled the biblical scene in which one day on the Sabbath, the disciples were hungry and picked ears of wheat to eat. Although the Pharisees got angry because they were working on the Sabbath, “in the face of hunger, Jesus prioritizes the dignity of the children of God over a formalistic, accommodating and interested interpretation of the norm.”
“He faced hypocritical and sufficient thought with humble intelligence of the heart which always prioritizes the human being and rejects certain logics that obstruct their freedom to live, love and serve their neighbor,” he said. In healing a man’s hand later that same day, Jesus angered the Pharisees even more. However, the hand is a sign of work, the Pope said, noting that by healing him, “Jesus returned to this man the ability to work and with that returned his dignity.” “How many atrophied hands, how many people deprived of the dignity of work because the hypocrites defend unjust systems and are opposed to healing,” he said.
Francis said this is a project that ultimately aims at integral human development, and noted that Cardinal Turkson will as of January be heading a new Vatican department with the same name.
On the other hand, the opposite of development, he said, “is atrophy, paralysis. We have to help so that the world heals from its moral atrophy.” “This atrophied system can offer some certain cosmetic implants that are not true development: economic growth, technical advances, greater efficiency in order to produce things that are bought, used and disposed of, encompassing all of us in a vertiginous dynamic of waste,” he said.
However, the Pope cautioned that this model doesn’t allow for the development of the human being in their intelligence, and nor does it provide a system “that isn’t reduced to consumption, which isn’t reduced to the welfare of a few, which includes all peoples and people in the fullness of their dignity...this is the development we need: human, integral, respectful of creation.”
Pope Francis then turned to a point he called “bankruptcy and bailout,” noting how during their meeting participants dedicated a day to discussing the drama of migrants, refugees and displaced persons. “What happens in the world today, that when there is the bankruptcy of a bank, scandalous sums immediately appear to save it, but when this bankruptcy of humanity occurs there is almost a thousandth of a part to save those brothers and sisters who suffer so much?” he asked.
The Pope said the Mediterranean has become “a graveyard, and not only the Mediterranean...so many graveyards by the walls, walls stained with innocent blood.” “Fear hardens the heart and becomes blind cruelty which refuses to see the blood, the pain, the face of the other,” he said, adding that for many migrants, their situation is exacerbated when they turn to traffickers in order to cross the border. As if their current situation wasn’t hard enough, their problems “are tripled” if when they reach the place they thought would bring a better life, they are instead “despised, exploited and enslaved.”
“This can be seen in any corner of hundreds of cities,” he said, and gave a shout out to the international organizations who “open their eyes” and adopt adequate means of welcoming and integrating those forced to leave their homes.
Francis then pointed to the relationship between people and democracy, saying it should be “fluid and natural,” but also runs the risk of “fading into the unrecognizable.”
The gap between peoples in current forms of democracy “is increasingly enlarged as a consequence of the enormous power of economic groups and media that seem to dominate them,” he said, saying the strength of popular movements lies in the fact that they are not political parties and can therefore promote different yet “vital” forms of social participation in public life.
Pope Francis then pointed to two different risks he said could thwart the efforts being made: that of letting oneself be “corseted” or corrupted. “Don’t let yourselves be corseted,” he said, noting that while various plans, such as for a co-op, microenterprise or an agro ecological garden might be accepted, they are only permissible “as long as they remain in the corset of ‘social politics.’”
The idea of social politics as a policy “toward the poor but never with the poor, never of the poor,” he said, “seems to me like a type of dressed-up dump made to contain the waste of the system.” “Thus democracy atrophies, becomes a type of nominalism, a formality, it loses representation, is disincarnated because it leaves the people outside in their daily fight for dignity, in the building of their destiny.”
When faced with these forms of paralysis, disorientation and destructive proposals, a protagonistic approach of those who seek the common good “can overcome, with the help of God, the false prophets who exploit fear and desperation, who sell magic formulas of hate and cruelty or of a selfish well-being and illusory security.”
“We know that as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved, giving up absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and attacking the structural causes of inequality, the problems of the world will not be resolved and in the end, no problem,” he said, adding that inequality “is the root of social evils.”
Francis then turned to the problem of corruption, saying that anyone who has too heavy of an attachment to money, banquets, cars, fancy suits should pray so that God “frees them from these bonds.” When faced with the temptation of corruption, austerity is the best solution he said, explaining that “there is no better antidote than austerity: and to practice austerity is, furthermore, to preach with example.”
“I ask you not to underestimate the value of example because it has more strength than a thousand words, a thousand leaflets, a thousand ‘likes,’ a thousand ‘retweets’ and a thousand videos on YouTube.”
Pope Francis closed his address by reading a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. included in his recent apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.” Calling him a man “who opted for fraternal love even in the midst of the worst persecutions and humiliations,” Francis quoted King’s own words in saying that “when you raise the level of love, of its great beauty and power, the only thing you seek to defeat are the evil systems.”
“To the people trapped in these systems, you love them, but you try to defeat that system...hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hatred and evil in the universe...it simply never ends,” he said. “Somewhere, someone must have some sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can break the chain of hatred, the chain of evil.”