In the article "The Economic Message of Evangelii Gaudium" (In Depth, Dec. 15 issue), Andrew Abela has summarized the message of Pope Francis in a marvelous and down-to-earth way.
In response to his statement, "Imagine the powerful impact and witness of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world working ... daily to improve the lives of the poor," I would offer this suggestion to each one of us as the best place to start: the "Poor Box." There is nothing so generous and simple than, upon entering the house of God to show gratitude and mercy, depositing a coin or a bill into this simple box. Imagine the good each pastor could do with those moneys, totaling perhaps $1.2 billion, around the world as he reaches out in the name of Jesus.
Let me start by saying I believe Pope Francis will be seen as one of our great popes. But I believe he needs a better speech writer, press secretary and/or PR person.
I have read five Catholic publications, including Andrew Abela’s column in the Register, on the Pope’s recent exhortation that included comments on capitalism. All tried to make it sound as if he wasn’t completely denigrating it. I also noticed that all these Catholic writers have used different approaches to interpret his words, trying their best to soften, refine or revise what he wrote. Too late.
The many, many other print, TV and radio analysts have picked up on his anti-capitalism comments. They then went off on a tangent in condemning this economic system in its entirety — and by association infer that he wants more government control or even a socialist approach to economies.
After reading it, I can see how they believe he is against capitalism. His presentation was not well expressed. That is why those in the Catholic media who have tried to restate his position have come up with their various diverse explanations of what he really meant. As in some of his earlier remarks, the Pope should have seen how this would be taken by an outsider’s mindset. I hope he didn’t mean it as the lay media have professed. Or perhaps he just doesn’t understand capitalism as practiced in the United States as opposed to in South America.
Believe me, there is no "absolute autonomy of markets" in this country. And yes, capitalism, free markets and the related "trickle down" results have done more to help humanity than any other government system in the history of the world.
No economic system is perfect, but no other has produced the moral and physical benefits our people and many in the rest of the world enjoy. This economic freedom goes along intrinsically with freedoms of religion and speech, while enhancing individual responsibility, initiative and self-control. It would have been far better if he had not introduced this subject as he did. Churchill may have said it best, "The vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of misery."
Regarding your coverage of Christian persecution: Each year, tourists from all over the world flock to Maaloula, a small Christian town north of Damascus, Syria, to celebrate the birth of Christ among one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.
On a dusty cliff overlooking the village, a large statue of Mary, Queen of Peace maintains a watchful eye over these celebrations. With its 17 churches, monasteries and holy relics, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the last remaining settlements in the Middle East where Aramaic, the language of Christ, continues to be spoken by the local population.
Maaloula’s two monasteries serve as a reminder of the persecution that early Christians faced. Each building is named after two of the Church’s early saints: Mar Sarkis (St. Sergius), a Roman soldier who was executed for refusing to denounce his Christian faith, and Mar Taqla (St. Thecla), a noble woman who had been sentenced to death twice for dedicating her life to the teachings of Christ.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Christmas for the people of Maaloula is usually a time of great festivity. Sadly though, like many other ancient Christian towns throughout the Middle East, celebrating Christmas this year wasn’t an option.
On Dec. 2, the British-based "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" announced that the Syrian rebel group Nusra Front, an organization linked to al Qaeda, had taken over the village and were occupying Maaloula’s two ancient monasteries. Even more concerning was the kidnapping of 12 Greek Orthodox nuns, who were forcibly taken from their monastery by armed men.
As the situation for Christians in Syria continues to deteriorate, Christians all over the world are facing both state- and non-state-sponsored persecution. In Egypt, Coptic Christians continue to be harassed and killed at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, Christian churches and homes are being razed in cities all over Pakistan, and in Nigeria worshippers are being gunned down while attending Mass.
In September, Pope Francis expressed the sadness that he felt for the world’s Christians, who continue to live under threat of daily oppression: "So many Christians in the world are suffering. ... Am I indifferent to that or does it affect me like it’s a member of the family? Does it touch my heart or doesn’t it really affect me, [to know that] so many brothers and sisters in the family are giving their lives for Jesus Christ?"
As the world media continues to ignore the plight of Christians abroad, we have a responsibility not to remain indifferent to the suffering of our brethren abroad.
That is why during the Christmas season, as we gathered with our family and friends to celebrate the birth of Christ, it was important for us to keep in mind those Christians around the world who observed the birth of our Savior under threat of attack, violence, imprisonment and isolation.
It is important for us to pray for the Christian families who have been torn apart by oppression, for the members of the clergy who have been martyred while confronting the forces of evil and for the millions of people, both Christian and non-Christian alike, who have fallen victim to deadly conflict and war.
"O glorious St. Lawrence, martyr and deacon, who, being subjected to the most bitter torments, did not lose your faith nor your constancy in confessing Jesus Christ, obtain in like manner for us such an active and solid faith that we shall never be ashamed to be true followers of Jesus Christ and fervent Christians in word and in deed. Amen."
Editor’s note: Ryan Nutter is the president of the Religious Freedom Initiative, which bills itself as a charitable organization that promotes public awareness of the ongoing state- and non-state-sponsored persecution of religious groups occurring throughout the world.
I just want to say those little PDF guides to Advent (Dec. 1 and 15 issues) are excellent! I’m sending them all around, and I think organizing the information in a one-page flyer is a great way to entice people to learn more about their faith or discover their faith.