Pope’s Calls for Systemic Change Parallel Themes from World Parliament of Religions

October 20, 2015

Presentations and dialogue at The World Parliament of Religions meeting this past week in Salt Lake City, Utah are resonant with the Pope’s words this past summer, speaking to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements.

In Bolivia in July, Pope Francis commended the “very beautiful fraternity, determination, commitment, a thirst for justice” that has been present in the gatherings of the World Meeting of Popular Movements.  He “ask(ed) everyone, bishops, priests and laity, as well as the social organizations of the urban and rural peripheries, to deepen this encounter…the Church opening her doors to all of you, embracing you, accompanying you and establishing in each diocese, in every justice and peace commission, a genuine, ongoing and serious cooperation with popular movements.”

Speech to popular Movements

Pope Francis said “I join my voice to yours in calling for land, lodging and labor for all our brothers and sisters. I said it and I repeat it: these are sacred rights. It is important, it is well worth fighting for them. May the cry of the excluded be heard…throughout the world.”

He went on:  “Let us begin by acknowledging that change is needed. The(re) are global problems which today no one state can resolve on its own…so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home…so many laborers without rights…so many persons whose dignity is not respected…so many senseless wars are being fought and acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep?  Do we realize something is wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat?  So let’s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change.”

Pope Francis maintains that: “There is an invisible thread joining every one of those forms of exclusion: can we recognize it? These are not isolated issues. I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?”

Again he “insist(ed), let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change. This system is by now intolerable.”  This “change we want and need” is “positive change, a change which is good for us, a change – we can say – which is redemptive…we need it. I know that you are looking for change, and not just you alone:  in my different meetings, in my different travels, I have sensed an expectation, a longing, a yearning for change, in people throughout the world. Even within that ever smaller minority which believes that the present system is beneficial, there is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction and even despondency. Many people are hoping for a change capable of releasing them from the bondage of individualism and the despondency it spawns.”


Pope Francis continued, in his address at the World Meeting of Popular Movements: “Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home.”  He said it is not “enough to point to the structural causes of today’s social and environmental crisis. We are suffering from an excess of diagnosis, which at times leads us to multiply words and to revel in pessimism and negativity. Looking at the daily news we think that there is nothing to be done, except to take care of ourselves and the little circle of our family and friends.”

Each of us must be “sowers of change,” the Pope said.  This change should be “seen not as something which will one day result from any one political decision or change in social structure. We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in bureaucratization, corruption and failure.”

Pope Francis said he liked “the image of a “process”, where the drive to sow, to water seeds which others will see sprout, replaces the ambition to occupy every available position of power and to see immediate results. Each of us is just one part of a complex and differentiated whole, interacting in time: peoples who struggle to find meaning, a destiny, and to live with dignity, to “live well”.”

In this process, Pope Francis urged a “rootedness in the barrio, the land, the office, the labor union, this ability to see yourselves in the faces of others, this daily proximity to their share of troubles and their little acts of heroism:  this is what enables you to practice the commandment of love, not on the basis of ideas or concepts, but rather on the basis of genuine interpersonal encounter. We do not love concepts or ideas; we love people… Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of children and the elderly, of peoples and communities… of names and faces which fill our hearts. From those seeds of hope patiently sown in the forgotten fringes of our planet, from those seedlings of a tenderness which struggles to grow amid the shadows of exclusion, great trees will spring up, great groves of hope to give oxygen to our world.”

The Pope thanked, blessed, and congratulated the indigenous leaders and popular movements, saying:

I congratulate you…It is essential that, along with the defense of their legitimate rights, peoples and their social organizations be able to construct a humane alternative to a globalization which excludes. You are sowers of change. May God grant you the courage, joy, perseverance and passion to continue sowing. Be assured that sooner or later we will see its fruits. Of the leadership I ask this: be creative and never stop being rooted in local realities, since the father of lies is able to usurp noble words, to promote intellectual fads and to adopt ideological stances. But if you build on solid foundations, on real needs and on the lived experience of your brothers and sisters, of campesinos and natives, of excluded workers and marginalized families, you will surely be on the right path.  The Church cannot and must not remain aloof from this process in her proclamation of the Gospel.

The Pope also acknowledged and thanked those in and outside of the church who “carry out an enormous work of accompanying and promoting the excluded throughout the world.”  He said he is “convinced that respectful cooperation with the popular movements can revitalize these efforts and strengthen processes of change.”