In Bolivia, Francis calls for a reform of the “intolerable” world economic system

Santa Cruz, Bolivia — Meeting with an international gathering of grassroots activists, Pope Francis not only encouraged, but tried to add fuel to their fire to “oppose an idolatrous (economic) system that excludes, debases and kills “.

Addressing the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz on Thursday, Francis acknowledged he had no “recipe” for a perfect economic-social-political system, but said problems with the current system are obvious and that the gospel contains principles that can help.

Activists – including union representatives and people who organize co-operatives for the poor who make a poor living recycling rubbish or cultivating small plots or fishing – are fighting ‘many forms of exclusion and injustice’ , said the pope.

“Yet there is an invisible thread connecting each of these forms of exclusion,” the pope said. They are all the result of a global economic system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at all costs, without concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature”.

The current global financial system is “intolerable”, he said. “Agricultural workers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as St. Francis would say – also finds it intolerable.”

At the meeting, sponsored by the Vatican and organized with the help of Bolivian President Evo Morales, Francis shared the sense of urgency shown by the participants, who adopted a long declaration of commitments promising to mobilize for the defense of the rights of the poor and of the land.

“Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to run out; we are not tearing each other apart yet, but we are tearing apart our common home,” the earth, he says.

“Perhaps the most important task” facing the world today, the pope said, “is to defend Mother Earth. Our common home is being looted, devastated and injured with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin”.

“Today, the scientific community is realizing what the poor have long been telling us: damage, perhaps irreversible, is being done to the ecosystem,” Francis said. “The earth, whole peoples and individuals are being brutally punished” by the effects of pollution, exploitation and climate change.

“And behind all this pain, death and destruction, there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called ‘the devil’s manure’ – a frenzied pursuit of money,” the pope said.

When money becomes a person’s god, he said, greed becomes the primary motivator of what people do, allow or support. In the end, he says, “it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human brotherhood, it pits people against each other and, as we can see, it even puts jeopardize our common home”.

In a speech that had harsh words for those who exploit the poor or destroy the environment, Francis also spoke very formally to the indigenous peoples present about the cooperation of the Catholic Church with the Spaniards and Portuguese who colonized much of of the Americas.

“I tell you with regret: many grave sins have been committed against the indigenous peoples of America in the name of God,” the pope said. “Here I want to be absolutely clear, as Saint John Paul II was: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for the crimes committed against the indigenous peoples during of the so-called conquest of America.”

At the same time, Francis asked those attending the meeting to recognize that many Catholics – priests, nuns and lay people – have voluntarily given their lives in service to the peoples of the continent.

Most people, including the poor attending the Santa Cruz meeting, he said, wonder how they can make a difference in the face of such huge problems and an economic system that seems to ignore any effort to be accountable. .

The pope urged attendees to look to Mary, “a humble girl from a small town lost on the fringes of a great empire, a homeless mother who turned an animal barn into a home for Jesus with just a few nappies and a lot of tenderness”.

The pope and the Catholic Church have no program or “recipe” for solving the problems of injustice and poverty in the world, he said. But it is clear that the economy must be “at the service of the people. Human beings and nature should not be at the service of money”.

“Let’s say ‘no’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. This economy kills. This economy excludes. This economy destroys Mother Earth,” he said.

The change people’s movements work for and the inspiration for Catholic social justice efforts cannot be ideology, he said; it must be people.

A person with a heart, the pope said, is not moved by cold statistics, but by “the pain of a suffering humanity, our own pain, our own flesh.”

Francis said the goal must be the creation of “a truly communal economy, one could say an economy of Christian inspiration.” Its characteristics are respect for human dignity, guaranteeing the right to land, housing and work, but also access to education, health care, culture, communications and leisure.

“It is an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the whole system of production and distribution in such a way that the capacities and needs of each individual find appropriate expression in social life” , did he declare.

Such an economy is not a dream, he said. The people, the talent and the resources are there.

In working for a new economy, Francis called grassroots movements “social poets”, people who are “creators of work, builders of housing and producers of food, especially for those left behind in the global market”.

You don’t have to be rich or powerful to impact the future of humanity, he said. The future “is fundamentally in the hands of the people and in their ability to organize themselves”.

“Keep up your fight and please take great care of Mother Earth,” the pope told the gathering. “I pray for you and with you.”

At the end of his 55-minute talk, Francis made his usual request that his audience pray for him, but knowing that many meeting participants are not believers, he asked those who cannot pray to “think good to me and sending me good vibes.”

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