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The Pope’s message of reconciliation

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Perhaps never before in living memory has the leader of the Catholic Church had such a profound impact on the poor, oppressed and needy as the current one, Argentinean Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis 1.

Ever since his ascension to leadership of the Holy See in 2013, he has indicated, unlike many of his 265 predecessors, that his will be a papacy based on service to the poor.{{more}}

Pope Francis, now on a visit to Cuba and the USA, between whom he has helped to forge some rapprochement, has been demonstrating his commitment, not only in words, but in very practical steps, including simplifying lifestyles at the Vatican, much to the chagrin of some in his own church.

The message of caring and service is central to his outlook. This is how he frames it: “This caring for others out of love is not about being servile…. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”

He has gone further, speaking out openly about the dangers of climate change and berating the worship of money and the excesses of unbridled capitalism. He has been very critical about the devastating impact of the global financial crisis since 2008 on the lives of billions of people the world over.

“The current financial crisis”, he said, “originated in a profound human crisis, the denial of the primacy of the human person…. We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

This concern for people underpins his outreach to people and leaders of all different persuasions. Pope Francis, as a citizen of Latin America, understands clearly the complexities of US/Cuba relations and the long-outdated embargo against the Cuban people. This is what prompted his intervention in promoting dialogue, which has borne fruit in the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between those two countries.

He says that this rapprochement must continue and “set an example of reconciliation” for the rest of the world. The normalization of relations between these two neighbouring states, he deems to be “a sign of victory of the culture of encounter and dialogue, the system of universal growth over the forever-dead system of groups and dynasties.” We do hope that our leaders take heed.

From Cuba, the Pope goes on to the United States of America, where, while millions of Latinos with their Catholic background look forward to his enlightening words, there are some in the right-wing corridors, who, consumed by hostility to Cuba, may not be so welcoming. He also has to face up to controversial issues such as the sexual abuse of children by some priests and the church’s attitude towards it, abortion and gay rights, all divisive political issues in the USA.

His is a major challenge, both in such overseas missions, as well as in leading reform in the Church. We admire his courage, foresight and fortitude.

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