Pope Francis: Catholic social teaching has useful principles for popular movements to follow
by Hannah Brockhaus
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2021 / 09:44 am
Speaking over a video call on Saturday, Pope Francis told members of popular movements that Catholic social teaching has useful principles that can help people of any faith to improve the world.
“The social teaching of the Church does not have all the answers, but it does have some principles that along this journey can help to concretize the answers, principles useful to Christians and non-Christians alike,” the pope said Oct. 16.
He said the principles compiled in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a manual of the Catholic Church’s social teaching, are “tested, human, Christian.”
“I recommend that you read it, you and all social, trade union, religious, political and business leaders,” he said.
Pope Francis delivered his message during the fourth World Meeting of Popular Movements, which took place in an online format Oct. 16. The last international meeting, which Pope Francis also attended, took place in Bolivia in July 2015.
According to the U.S. regional website, “popular movements are grassroots organizations and social movements established around the world by people whose inalienable rights to decent work, decent housing, and fertile land and food are undermined, threatened or denied outright.”
Pope Francis compared popular movements to the Good Samaritan, and said that these two things reminded him of the protests which happened because of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020, by police officer Derek Chauvin.
Protests against police brutality were organized across the U.S. and in other parts of the world in the wake of Floyd’s unjust death.
“It is clear that this type of reaction against social, racial or macho injustice can be manipulated or exploited by political machinations or whatever, but the main thing is that, in that protest against this death, there was the Collective Samaritan who is no fool!” Pope Francis said.
“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. The popular movements are not only social poets but also collective Samaritans.”
Francis encouraged the groups to also transmit to future generations “the same thing that inflames your hearts.”
“In this you have a dual task or responsibility,” he said. “Like the Good Samaritan, to tend attentively to all those who are stricken along the way, and at the same time, to ensure that many more join in: the poor and the oppressed of the earth deserve it, and our common home demands it of us.”
He emphasized several principles which can be found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, “such as the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, participation, and the common good.”
“These are all ways in which the Good News of the Gospel takes concrete form on a social and cultural level,” he said, noting that “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.”
Francis said we need to rely on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity to carry out the mission of the Gospel in a concrete way.
“These are balanced and well-established principles in the Social Teaching of the Church. With these two principles I believe we can take the next step from dream to action. Because it is time for action,” he underlined.
He noted that he does not have all the answers to the question, “what must we do?” But he pointed to a universal basic income and a shortened workday as two possible solutions to the unfair distribution of resources and labor.
“I believe these measures are necessary, but of course not sufficient. They do not solve the root problem, nor do they guarantee access to land, housing and work in the quantity and quality that landless farmers, families without secure shelter and precarious workers deserve. Nor will they solve the enormous environmental challenges we face. But I wanted to mention them because they are possible measures and would point us in the right direction,” he stated.
He said in the service of popular movements he sees the Lord making himself present.
“Jesus told us that salvation consists in taking care of the hungry, the sick, prisoners, foreigners; in short, in recognizing Him and serving Him in all suffering humanity,” he continued. “That is why I wish to say to you: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied’ (Mt 5: 6), ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God’ (Mt 5: 9).”
Among those who took part in the Oct. 16 video conference with Pope Francis was a group of refugees stuck in Libya, some of whom are survivors of torture and prison camps.
According to a video and information sent by one migrant to Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, the refugees have staged a peaceful protest outside of the U.N. agencies’ headquarters in Tripoli, Libya, for over 16 days asking to be evacuated to a safe country.
In the video, the migrant says they will participate in the World Meeting of Popular Movements “because our struggle is the struggle of everyone… of justice and fraternity.”
Pope Francis said “in my experience, when people, men and women, have suffered injustice, inequality, abuse of power, deprivations, and xenophobia in their own flesh – in my experience, I can see that they understand much better what others are experiencing and are able to help them realistically to open up paths of hope.”
“How important it is that your voice be heard, represented in all the places where decisions are made. Offer your voice in a collaborative spirit; speak with moral certainty of what must be done,” he stated.