Pope Francis, in a keynote address to a group of social justice activists, harshly criticized the current economic system which, “with its relentless logic of profit, is escaping all human control. It is time to slow the locomotive down, an out-of-control locomotive hurtling towards the abyss.”

Addressing the IV World Meeting of Popular Movements, the Pope told participants that their dedication “is above all a proclamation of hope” reminding us that “we are not condemned to repeat or to build a future based on exclusion and inequality, rejection or indifference”.

In his address, he also called for the shortening of the working day and a basic income or salary so that everyone in the world may have access to the most basic necessities of life. He also praised the protest movement that followed the murder of George Floyd. He compared these protests to that of a “Collective Samaritan who is no fool! 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.”

In the name of God

Pope Francis said he realises some people, including within the Church, consider him to be “a pest” for defending the poor and most vulnerable, but that this won’t stop him given that this is part of Christianity.

“Thinking about these situations (of exclusion and inequality), I make a pest of myself with my questions. And I go on asking.” Pope Francis then went on to make a series of nine appeals “in the name of God:

  • I ask all the great pharmaceutical laboratories to release the (Covid vaccine) patents. Make a gesture of humanity and allow every country, every people, every human being, to have access to the vaccines. There are countries where only three or four per cent of the inhabitants have been vaccinated.
  • In the name of God, I ask financial groups and international credit institutions to allow poor countries to assure the basic needs of their people and to cancel those debts that so often are contracted against the interests of those same peoples.
  • In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries — mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness — to stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people.
  • In the name of God, I ask the great food corporations to stop imposing monopolistic systems of production and distribution that inflate prices and end up withholding bread from the hungry.
  • In the name of God, I ask arms manufacturers and dealers to completely stop their activity, because it foments violence and war, it contributes to those awful geopolitical games which cost millions of lives displaced and millions dead.
  • In the name of God, I ask the technology giants to stop exploiting human weakness, people’s vulnerability, for the sake of profits without caring about the spread of hate speech, grooming, fake news, conspiracy theories, and political manipulation.
  • In the name of God, I ask the telecommunications giants to ease access to educational material and connectivity for teachers via the internet so that poor children can be educated even under quarantine.
  • In the name of God, I ask the media to stop the logic of post-truth, disinformation, defamation, slander and the unhealthy attraction to dirt and scandal, and to contribute to human fraternity and empathy with those who are most deeply damaged.
  • In the name of God, I call on powerful countries to stop aggression, blockades and unilateral sanctions against any country anywhere on earth. No to neo-colonialism. Conflicts must be resolved in multilateral fora such as the United Nations. We have already seen how unilateral interventions, invasions and occupations end up; even if they are justified by noble motives and fine words.”

Silent Pandemics

The Holy Father also referred to a “silent pandemic” of chronic anxiety linked to various factors such as “hyperconnectivity, disorientation and lack of future prospects,” made worse by a lack of real contact with others and ultimately, the lack of real contact with friends, “because friendship is the form in which love always resurges.”

He also lamented the “scourge of the food crisis” affecting millions in spite of advances in biotechnology. He noted that 20 million more people have been dragged into extreme levels of food insecurity this year, with increased destitution and increases in food prices. He expressed concern about the possibility of annual deaths from hunger exceeding those from Covid-19.

Dreaming together

Pope Francis invited participants to dream together “because it was precisely the dreams of freedom and equality, of justice and dignity, the dreams of fraternity, that improved the world”.

Dreams “transcend the narrow limits imposed on us and propose new possible worlds,” the Pope said, adding, that dreams are 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 urged everyone to confront together “the populist discourses of intolerance, xenophobia, and aporophobia” (hatred of the poor) which have only served to “divide our peoples, and to undermine and neutralise our poetic capacity, our ability to dream together.”