During an October 28 encounter with various lay and religious movements within the Catholic Church, Pope Francis condemned the oppression of the poor due to greed, while warning against what he called a “globalization of indifference.”  The Argentina-born pontiff said that he has been wrongfully typecast by some as a socialist or a communist. In 2013, for example, American radio personality Rush Limbaugh fretted that one of Pope Francis's statements on economics smacked of Marxism. Referring to statements made by the Pope about "unfettered capitalism,' Limbaugh said inter alia that the Catholic Church would not exist if not for capitalism. Limbaugh said, 
 
"I gotta be very careful.  I have been numerous times to the Vatican.  It wouldn't exist without tons of money.  But regardless, what this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him.  This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.  Unfettered capitalism?  That doesn't exist anywhere.  Unfettered capitalism is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States.  Unfettered, unregulated."
 
Moreover, the voluble Limbaugh opined that the Pope's simple lifestyle is but a public relations ploy.
 
Speaking at the Vatican on October 28, the Pope said “It is not possible to tackle poverty by promoting containment strategies to merely reassure, rendering the poor 'domesticated,' harmless and passive,” while saying that basic human needs for land, housing and work are an “aspiration that should be within the reach of all but which we sadly see is increasingly unavailable to the majority.”  
 
“It's strange, but if I talk about this, there are those who think that the Pope is Communist,” he said.
 
“The fact that the love for the poor is in the center of the gospel is misunderstood,” the Pope added. “Those (values) for which you’re fighting for are sacred rights. It’s the Church’s social doctrine.”
 
The meeting with the Catholic movements was held in the Vatican's Old Synod Hall, and organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, as well as leaders of various movements. Making reference to a word often used by his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis said that solidarity is term oft forgotten. He added that it extends far beyond sporadic acts of generosity. Pope Francis said that solidarity should be thought of in communal terms, and includes fighting inequality, unemployment, landlessness, homelessness, and the denial of social and labor rights. What he called the “empire of money” and its effect such as forced displacement, painful migration, human trafficking, drugs, war and violence, must be fought.
 
“Today the phenomenon of exploitation and oppression assumes a new dimension, a graphical and hard edge of social injustice,” the Pope said. He explained that the current “throwaway culture” makes it so that those who are unable to integrate are regarded as “cast-offs.” He also said that this is what happens when economic systems make an idol of money that lies at the heart of their work instead of the human person, created in the image of God. Regarding unemployment, he said that every person who works, whether part of the formal system of paid work or not, “has the right to fair remuneration, social security and a pension.”
 
Among these people are those in the informal economy, such as those recycle waste, street vendors, garment makers, craftsmen, fishermen, farmers, builders, miners, workers in companies in receivership, cooperatives and common trades which are often excluded from employment rights and denied the option of forming trades unions, as well as those who do not receive a stable or sufficient income. “I wish to unite my voice to theirs and to accompany them in their struggle,” Pope Francis said.
 
Regarding the natural world, Pope Francis that land, housing or work cannot be pursued if our planet is not maintained. “Creation is not our property which we may exploit as we please, (and) even less so the property of the few,” explained the Pope. He said that creation is a gift from God that must be cared for and used for the good of humanity.
 
Pope Francis said that instead of seeing the world as a gift from God that compels fighting for justice, the world sees work taken away, families evicted, peasants expelled from their land, war and harm done to the natural environment. “Because this system has removed humanity from the center and replaced it with something else! Because of the idolatrous worship of money! Because of the globalization of indifference – ‘what does it matter to me what happens to others, I'll defend myself,’” the Pope explained. The world, said the Pope, has forgotten God and thus become “an orphan” because it has turned away from Him. 
 
The pontiff referred Christians to what he called the “revolutionary program” outlined by Jesus in the Beatitudes, and encouraged re-reading them. He also emphasized the importance of walking together, saying that popular movements express urgent need of revitalizing democracies, which “so often (are) hijacked by many factors.”
 
“It is impossible to imagine a future for society without the active participation of the majority, and this role extends beyond the logical procedures of formal democracy,” he said.

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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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