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Pope challenges 'tyranny of mammon’ in dramatic talks in Bolivia

July 10, 2015

Pope Francis insisted that Christians must help those in need, denounced unfettered materialism as "the dung of the devil," apologized for the offenses committed by Christians against indigenous peoples of the Americas, underlined the 'universal destination of goods,' and spoke of the persecution of Christians as "genocide," in a pair of powerful addresses on July 10.

On the fifth day of his nine-day apostolic journey to South America, the Pope spent the day in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s largest city. After celebrating Mass in Christ the Redeemer Square, he met with clergy, religious, and seminarians at Don Bosco College in the afternoon and took part in the Second World Meeting of the Popular Movements at the Expo Feria Exhibition Center.

In his address to clergy, religious, and seminarians, Pope Francis delivered his message on helping those in need, reflecting on the three responses of Christ’s disciples to the cries of the blind beggar Bartimeus: “they passed by, they told him to be quiet, and they told him to take heart and get up.”

Reflecting on Christ’s response, the Pope said:

Unlike those who simply passed by, the Gospel says that Jesus stopped and asked what was happening. He stopped when someone cried out to him. Jesus singled him out from the nameless crowd and got involved in his life. And far from ordering him to keep quiet, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

He didn’t have to show that he was different, somehow apart; he didn’t decide whether Bartimeus was worthy or not before speaking to him. He simply asked him a question, looked at him and sought to come into his life, to share his lot. And by doing this he gradually restored the man’s lost dignity; he included him. Far from looking down on him, Jesus was moved to identify with the man’s problems and thus to show the transforming power of mercy. There can be no compassion without stopping, hearing and showing solidarity with the other.

In his address to the World Meeting of the Popular Movements-- an initiative sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences-- Pope Francis said he wished “to join my voice to yours in calling for land, lodging and labor for all our brothers and sisters.”

He began:

Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?

Do we realize that something is wrong where so many senseless wars are being fought and acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep? Do we realize something is wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat?

So let’s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change.

“An unfettered pursuit of money rules,” he continued. “The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.”

Pope Francis emphasized that he was calling for changes based on fraternal love, rather than ideologies, and rooted in local realities, rather than imposed from outside. He proposed “three great tasks which demand a decisive and shared contribution from popular movements.”

Calling for “a truly communitarian economy, one might say an economy of Christian inspiration,” Pope Francis said that “the first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. Let us say No to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service.”

The goal of economics, the Pope said, should not be the accumulation of wealth, but the service of the common good. He went on to say that the universal destination of goods—a concept that figured prominently in the Church’s social teaching for decades—“is a reality prior to private property.” The Pope explained that all property should serve the needs of society—adding that welfare programs cannot replace “true inclusion, an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and fraternal work.”

The second task, he said, is to promote respect for local peoples and their sovereignty in the face of the increasingly globalized power exercised by multinational corporations. “Similarly, the monopolizing of the communications media, which would impose alienating examples of consumerism and a certain cultural uniformity, is another one of the forms taken by the new colonialism,” he said.

“The third task, perhaps the most important facing us today, is to defend Mother Earth,” he continued. “Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin. We see with growing disappointment how one international summit after another takes place without any significant result.”

During his address, Pope Francis repeated St. John Paul II’s apology for the sins Catholics committed against native peoples. He added:

I also ask everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, to think of those many bishops, priests and laity who preached and continue to preach the Good News of Jesus with courage and meekness, respectfully and pacifically; who left behind them impressive works of human promotion and of love, often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying their popular movements even to the point of martyrdom. The Church, her sons and daughters, are part of the identity of the peoples of Latin America. An identity which here, as in other countries, some powers are committed to erasing, at times because our faith is revolutionary, because our faith challenges the tyranny of mammon.

Finally, the Pontiff used strong language--including the word "genocide"--to denounce the persecution of Christians:

Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. This too needs to be denounced: in this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.


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  • Posted by: john.n.akiko7522 - Jul. 14, 2015 1:23 AM ET USA

    Yes. But will anyone listen and follow the Holy Father's suggestion unless they have had a sincere and radical conversion to Jesus Christ? What other motivation is there for those in power to relinquish it, other than doing if for the sake of the kingdom> I really wonder if his approach will have an impact. The world first needs to be converted to embrace the gospel.

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Jul. 13, 2015 2:46 PM ET USA

    The pope is not wrong. BUT... Liberation Theology is so strong in Latin America, I wish he had done something to curb it. I know I'll expect more Marxist homilies from now on. While unregulated capitalism is bad, one should not criticize it without providing the remedy: local iniative and love. I know he underlined those things, but he should perhaps have BOLDED them.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 12, 2015 11:20 AM ET USA

    Christian genocide should be a topic he adresses while in USA and with Obama(what are WE going to do about it?)