It’s up to us now | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

It’s up to us now

12:42 AM January 27, 2015

Pope Francis introduced the poor to the rest of the country’s population. This was his great contribution. Many better-off people saw for the first time that the poor are full of faith and joy in the things of God, are especially loved by God, and are decent, hardworking citizens, if and when they have jobs, and are deserving of the country’s respect. If Pope Francis had more time he might give certain groups specific suggestions on what to do in the future. The Pope hasn’t commissioned anyone to speak for him, but let’s imagine what he might have said to business people, parish priests and theologians, bishops and politicians.

Wealthy business people. We believe Pope Francis would tell our business people that they, with the help of financial experts and political leaders, must “bring about balance in the economy and a more humane social order” (“Joy of the Gospel” #57). The Pope wants an inclusive economy that provides work and a family living wage for all willing to work. He seeks an end to inequality of all sorts.

Can the business community do this? Can the Makati Business Club do it? The Pope would urge those among them who have the courage to work on this new economy plan to first look deeply into the eyes of our poor—I think he means it literally—and they will find there a deep faith in God and his mother Mary; they will see patience, and trust, and the longing to work to have a better life for their children. They will find in those eyes the reasons for a new economy and the goals it should seek. Will our business people find ways to plan the new economy and social order? Even five to 10 good men and women could start the work.

Parish priests. It was clear Pope Francis holds the traditional moral views of the Church. “I am a son of the Church,” he has said. But when he states the old moral positions, he always insists the men or women involved be treated with respect, welcomed in the Church, and be thoroughly understood and helped pastorally in every way possible.

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It is not enough for our parish priests and theologians to explain the moral positions of the Church. They must, as the Pope does, tell everyone in the Church more about the pastoral care that must be extended to the woman who feels she must practice birth control because she has four or five children already and cannot feed another child, and to the gays and lesbians who seek a home in the Church. To understand all is to forgive all.

Development workers. Pope Francis told the poor they were especially loved by God. He seemed happiest when he was with them, kissing their babies, hugging their old people. The poor need many things, one of the most important is the chance to organize large, democratic and nonviolent people’s organizations through which they can pursue their human rights and have a voice in how society functions. God wants poor people to have houses, jobs, food, education, and to be free and in charge of their lives. God wants his people to work with dignity and courage for a better world. He doesn’t want slavish followers of politicians or parties. He wants His poor people to stand up, express what they believe should be done and vote intelligently.

Catholic bishops. It seemed to some of us watching Pope Francis on TV and in person that the Catholic bishops who were with him appeared the most unaffected of all the people listening to him. They looked at times, at least some of them, as if they didn’t understand the languages used. I didn’t see any spontaneous laughter or clapping from them. Everyone else from rich people to street children seemed enthralled. The bishops seemed different from the rest of the people. They were like Republicans listening to US President Barack Obama give his State of the Union message. Is this a completely false perception?

Asia. Every time a pope comes toward the end of his visit here, he talks about the role of the Philippines in the evangelization of Asia. Many things are being done along those lines already, as explained by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle at a press conference, but is that all? What can we do here that would send a clear image to non-Christians in Asia of what our faith can bring about when it is sincerely lived?

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Maybe we can make something good out of misfortune. The country is expected to be one of the world’s “leaders” in storms and other natural disasters in the coming decades. Maybe we can attend to the victims with such wholehearted speed and dedication and with so much compassion that all of Asia will say, “See how they love one another?” as was said of Christians in the very early Church. Maybe we can offer a country where true justice and solidarity exist among all peoples, rich and poor, urban and rural, Christian and Muslim.

Such a country would be a true marvel.

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Politicians. After his talk in Malacañang on the first full day of his visit, Pope Francis hardly mentioned politics or politicians again. He mentioned them indirectly, of course, when he spoke of corruption and scandal in government. Politicians seemed not to be an important part of his agenda. Perhaps there were reasons for this absence; maybe it is because the Pope looks to other forces in society to lead reform, namely, the poor, the Church, perhaps some business people, academicians, media people, labor union leaders, urban poor and farmer leaders. The Church has usually looked to the very powerful to reform society. This Pope, because of his Latin American experience, looks to change surging from the bottom.

Maybe the Pope understands change will not come from the politicians, but from a union of the poor and some enlightened members of the better-off classes who ally themselves with the poor in a holy alliance.

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Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates ([email protected]).

TAGS: column, Denis Murphy, Pope Francis, Poverty

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