On Saturday, October 16, the Fourth World Meeting of Popular Movements gathered virtually with Pope Francis in attendance. The pope’s lengthy address promoted the development of a new humanized and humanizing approach to social and political life, starting from the grassroots and the peripheries. The Successor of Peter again supports the wide world of people who stand up for social justice and human dignity in the midst of pain and exclusion.
Drawing from the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church and applying them to this new context, the pope insists upon the need for nations to reconsider issues such as a universal basic income and reduced working hours, exemptions from patents on vaccines, and an ethical reorientation of the media to prevent “fake news” and the dissemination of conspiracy theories.
Near the end of his address, Francis offers perhaps the most important hermeneutical key to understanding the necessity of community action on behalf of the common good in an authentic and less bourgeois way: the world can be seen more clearly from the peripheries.
As the pope said: “The suffering of the world is better understood alongside those who suffer. 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.”
This method and outlook were explained in depth in the Encyclical Fratelli tutti. When we attempt to work for the common good without having friendship and closeness with the poor, everything becomes ideology, manipulation, and moralism. Francis knows well that there have been projects of “Christian inspiration” that have sought to defeat power with power, proceeding from the vertex to influence the base, trying to ingratiate themselves with the elites, waging culture wars and, eventually, affirming some form of “prosperity gospel.” For those imprisoned by this ideology, anyone who is not “right-wing” is “left-wing”; anyone who is not “conservative” is “liberal”. And thus, by forcing reality into a small box, they end up defining categorically who is coherent and who is a coward—including the Pope.
On this point, Francis says: “It sometimes surprises me that every time I speak of these principles [of Catholic social doctrine], some people are astonished, and then the Holy Father gets labeled with a series of epithets that are used to reduce any reflection to mere discrediting adjectives. It doesn’t anger me, it saddens me. It is part of the post-truth plot that seeks to nullify any humanistic search for an alternative to capitalist globalization, it is part of the throwaway culture, and it is part of the technocratic paradigm.”
These strong words encourage us to look to the efforts of the popular movements all over the world with hope.
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Rodrigo Guerra López is the secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Originally from Mexico City, he graduated in philosophy from the Free Popular University of the State of Puebla, Mexico; he was then awarded a higher degree in university humanism from the Ibero-American University, Mexico, and a doctorate in philosophy from the International Academy of Philosophy of the Principality of Liechtenstein.
He has held the role of academic coordinator of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute in Mexico City and has served as professor of metaphysics, bioethics, and philosophy of law at the PanAmerican University, Mexico. In 2013 he held the Karol Wojtyla Memorial Lectures at the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland.
From 2004 to 2007 he directed the Observatorio Socio Pastoral of the Latin American Episcopal Council. In 2008 he founded the Centro de Investigación Social Avanzada (CISAV), of which he is professor-researcher of the Division of Philosophy and member of the Consejo de Gobierno.
He is a member of the theological commission of the Latin American Episcopal Council and of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and is the author of numerous publications in the field of anthropology, bioethics, and social philosophy.