Pope Francis thanked and praised “social poets” for the ways they create hope and work for inclusion and equality in an Oct. 16 video address focused on working for the common good and caring for our common home.
“Poetry means creativity, and you create hope. With your hands you know how to shape the dignity of each person, of families and of society as a whole, with land, housing, work, care, and community,” he said. “Seeing you reminds me that we are not condemned to repeat or to build a future based on exclusion and inequality, rejection or indifference; where the culture of privilege is an invisible and insurmountable power; and where being exploited and abused are common methods of survival.”
The pandemic has illuminated many inequities and injustices of global systems in which “peoples and persons are simply cogs,” he observed.
While everyone has struggled and suffered as a result, it is those on the margins, such as migrants, undocumented persons and informal workers, who suffered most. This is due to a “culture of indifference” in which the “suffering one-third of our world does not seem to be of sufficient interest to the big media and opinion makers.”
Efforts to change systemic issues often face resistance, the pope observed, so we must work to “adjust our socio-economic models so that they have a human face, because many models have lost it.”
Calling himself “a pest” for raising questions about systems and structures of oppression and inequity, Pope Francis offered a litany of requests.
He asked for the release of drug patents by pharmaceutical makers, for financial leaders to ensure basic needs can be met worldwide, for industry leaders to end practices that destroy creation, for food companies to help control prices and ensure no one is hungry, and for powerful nations to reject neo-colonialism and aggressive policies.
In place of oppressive and exploitative systems that prioritize profits over people and that result in systemic injustices, Pope Francis urged individuals, companies and governments to focus on the common good.
“This system, with its relentless logic of profit, is escaping all human control,” he said. “It is time to slow the locomotive down, an out-of-control locomotive hurtling towards the abyss. There is still time.”
Turning to religious leaders, he urged them “never to use the name of God to foment wars or coups,” but rather to “build bridges of love so that the voices of the periphery … provoke not fear but empathy in the rest of society.”
Populist rhetoric of intolerance, xenophobia and hatred of the poor must be confronted and condemned, he said, so that we can “dream together” about a new and better future we will build.
“You are capable of going beyond the short-sighted self-justifications and human conventions that achieve nothing but continue to justify things as they are. … Dreams are always dangerous for those who defend the status quo because they challenge the paralysis that the egoism of the strong and the conformism of the weak want to impose,” he said.
We must persist in dreaming together “of that good living in harmony with all humanity and creation,” the pope emphasized.
This necessitates that we reject a return to the way things were pre-pandemic with its widespread inequality and prioritization of profits over people, and that we “choose the difficult path” so that we “come out better” in the end.
Pope Francis described the protests that followed the death of George Floyd as “the Collective Samaritan,” referencing the well-known parable in Luke 10, noting that “this movement did not pass by on the other side of the road when it saw the injury to human dignity caused by an abuse of power.”
He urged listeners to continue working in this same spirit to help the poor and oppressed and to care for our common home by “tend[ing] attentively to all those who are stricken along the way.”
Lamenting that the long-standing social teachings of the Catholic Church are often misunderstood and described, even by Catholics, with “discrediting adjectives,” the pontiff explained that “the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, participation, and the common good” are among the central tenets.
“The Pope must not stop mentioning this teaching, even if it often annoys people, because what is at stake is not the Pope but the Gospel,” he asserted.
He then offered several concrete actions to consider, which included a universal basic income (UBI) and a shorter workday, acknowledging that they will not solve economic injustice and inequity by themselves, but emphasizing that they “would point us in the right direction.”
Finally, Pope Francis urged that we listen to people on the margins because “the world can be seen more clearly from the peripheries” and because “the suffering of the world is better understood alongside those who suffer.”
The full address is available here.