Pope Francis: Fighting for the Poor Doesn’t Make Me Communist; It Makes Me Catholic

The Holy Father said the world has forgotten God and so has become ‘an orphan’ because it has turned away from him.

(photo: CNA/Daniel Ibáñez)

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis spoke out against oppression of the poor due to greed and warned again of the growing presence of a “globalization of indifference” — a warning, he said, which has wrongly characterized him.

“It is not possible to tackle poverty by promoting containment strategies to merely reassure, rendering the poor ‘domesticated,’ harmless and passive,” the Pope told those gathered for his Oct. 28 encounter with leaders of various Church movements.

He called the basic needs for land, housing and work an “aspiration that should be within the reach of all, but which we sadly see is increasingly unavailable to the majority.”

“It’s strange, but if I talk about this, there are those who think that the Pope is [a] communist,” he said.

“The fact that the love for the poor is in the center of the Gospel is misunderstood,” the Pope added. “Those (values) for which you’re fighting for are sacred rights. It’s the Church’s social doctrine.”

Held in the Vatican’s Old Synod Hall, where previous synods took place before the construction of the Paul VI Hall, the meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, along with the leaders of various movements.

Solidarity, the Pope observed in his speech, is a word that is often forgotten in today’s society and which extends far beyond sporadic acts of generosity.

Instead, it requires thinking in communal terms and includes fighting structural causes of poverty, such as inequality, unemployment, lack of land and housing and the denial of social and labor rights, he said. It also requires facing the destructive effects of the “empire of money,” such as forced displacement, painful migration, human trafficking, drugs, war and violence.

“Today, the phenomenon of exploitation and oppression assumes a new dimension, a graphical and hard edge of social injustice,” the Pope noted, explaining that this “throwaway culture” makes it so that those who are unable to integrate are marginalized and discarded as “castoffs.”

Situations such as this arise when economic systems make money their god and put it at the heart of their work, rather than centering attention on the human person, created in the image of God, the Holy Father continued.

He then turned his attention to the phenomenon of unemployment, saying that each person who works, whether part of the formal system of paid work or not, “has the right to fair remuneration, social security and a pension.”

These people, Francis noted, include those who recycle waste, street vendors, garment makers, craftsmen, fishermen, farmers, builders, miners and workers in companies in receivership, cooperatives and common trades, which are often excluded from employment rights and denied the option of forming trades unions, as well as those who don’t receive a stable or sufficient income.

“I wish to unite my voice to theirs and to accompany them in their struggle,” Pope Francis said.

On the theme of peace and ecology, the Pope said that it is not possible to pursue land, housing or work if we can’t maintain the planet or if we destroy it.

“Creation is not our property, which we may exploit as we please, (and) even less so the property of the few,” he explained, saying that, instead, creation is a gift from God that we must care for and use for the good of all humanity with respect and gratitude.

Pope Francis went on to question those present in the audience, asking why, instead of viewing the world as a gift and fighting for justice, do many people instead see work taken away, families evicted, peasants expelled from their land, war and harm done to nature.

“Because this system has removed humanity from the center and replaced it with something else! Because of the idolatrous worship of money! Because of the globalization of indifference — ‘What does it matter to me what happens to others? I’ll defend myself,’” the Pope explained.

The world, said the Holy Father, has forgotten God and so has become “an orphan,” because it has turned away from him.

However, Christians have been given a strong guide and “revolutionary program” for how to act, which can be found in the beatitudes, the Bishop of Rome noted, and encouraged all to read them.

Pope Francis emphasized the importance of walking together, saying that popular movements express the urgent need of revitalizing democracies, which “so often (are) hijacked by many factors.”

He said, “It is impossible to imagine a future for society without the active participation of the majority, and this role extends beyond the logical procedures of formal democracy.”

Shannon Mullen, Editor-in-Chief of CNA

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Shannon Mullen, Editor-in-Chief of Catholic News Agency.

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“As a young newspaper reporter, I drew great inspiration from Pope John Paul II’s annual remarks on World Communications Day,” Mullen said adding, “He emphasized that even those in the secular media could serve as apostles in the cause of human dignity, justice and the pursuit of truth."