Pope Francis praises the poor who recycle 'leftovers' of the wealthy

religion | Dec 20, 2013 | By Martin Barillas

Pope Francis praised the self-employed poor all over the world engaged in recycling as being part of a global ecological task. He called scrappers to focus the world’s attention on the amount of food that is wasted in what he characterized as a “throw away culture.” He provided this message during a private audience with a leader of Movimiento de los Trabajadores Excluidos (MTE) (Movement of Excluded Workers) in Rome. The video was shown (see here) during a subsequent gathering of recyclers.  In many parts of the world, and in the Pope’s native Argentina, thousands of people informally recycle waste materials such as cardboard, glass, metal and other findings that they in turn use to feed their families.
The pontiff invited the recyclers to reflect on the service that they provide. “Think about how to move forward with this work of recycling – please excuse the word – the leftovers. It is what is leftover by the wealthy. Today, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of disdaining what is left over.”
“We live in a throw-away culture, where there are not only leftover things but also leftover people,” warned the Pope. “All the hungry people of the world could be fed with food that is thrown out.”
Pope Francis added, “When you recycle, you are doing two things: a necessary ecological work and, on the other hand, producing harmony that provides dignity to this work. You are creative in this production, and your are also creative in caring for the earth with this ecological vision."
The MTE is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Argentina. According to its website, it seeks to expose criminal organizations and corrupt police and officials who exploit the ‘cartoneros’: the poor who recycle cardboard and cartons in and around Buenos Aires, the national capital. Among the services it provides is a pre-school for its members. The group denounced the October shooting of one of its members by a police officer in Lanus (a Buenos Aires suburb) in what it characterized as an unnecessary use of force.
On December 15, Juan Grabois – representing MTE member and a board member of Argentina’s Confederación de Trabajadores de la Economía Popular – which advocates for the country’s self-employed poor – led a colloquium in Rome that was convened by the Pope on the marginalization of the poor.  



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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