World Meeting of Popular Movements: Impressions of a historic encounter

Pope Francis and President Evo Morales at World Meeting of Popular MovementsLatin America in Movement/ALC


By Ignacio Ramonet:

Tuesday, October 28, has witnessed a historic moment.

First of all, because it is hardly usual for the Pope to call a World Meeting of Popular Movements, in the Vatican, with the participation of organizations of the marginalized and excluded, from all ethnic and religious origins: landless campesinos, urban workers from the informal sector, recyclers, struggling native peoples, women demanding their rights, etc.  In a word, a world Assembly of the poor people of the Earth.  But these are the struggling poor who are not resigned to their fate.

Secondly, it is even less frequent for the Pope to directly address these people, in the Vatican, telling them that he wants “to hear the voice of the poor” because “the poor are not resigned to suffer injustice but struggle against it” and that he (the Pope) wants “to be with them in this struggle.”  Francis also declared that “the poor are not simply waiting passively for solutions that never arrive; now the poor want to act so that they themselves can find solutions to their problems”, since “the poor are not resigned, they protest”, and their protest “is disturbing”.  He said that he hopes that the “winds of protest become gales of hope.”

At the same time, the Pope declared that “solidarity is one way to make history”.  Because of this he joins the demand of the poor for “land, a roof, and work.”  And he added: “When I ask for land, a roof and work for the needy, some people have accused me saying ‘the Pope is a communist!’ They do not understand that solidarity with the poor is the very grounding of the Gospels”.

Francis also asserted that: “Agrarian reform is not only a political need, but also a moral one!” And he accused (without naming it) neo-liberalism of being the cause of many of the evils in our time. “All this takes place” he said “when the human being is no longer at the centre of the system, but that at the centre now is money.” “Because of this we need to speak out”, he repeated. And he recalled that “We Christians have a programme that I dare to call revolutionary: the beatitudes of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ from the Gospel according to Matthew”.

These are strong, bold statements that are rooted in the Social Doctrine of the Church – a doctrine with which the Pope explicitly identifies – as well as in the preferential option for the poor.

It has been a long time since a Pope pronounced a discourse that was this social, this ‘progressive’ on such a theme, that of solidarity with the poor, that is at the very foundation of Christian doctrine.

Thirdly, all this has been even more important in view of the fact that the Pope made this speech in the presence of the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, an icon of social movements and a leader of indigenous peoples.  Moments later, President Morales, to great applause, spoke to the gathering of popular movements in struggle, to explain, with many examples, that “capitalism, that buys and sells everything, has created a civilization marked by wastefulness”.  He insisted that “democracy and politics need a new foundation, since democracy is government by people and not by capital and the bankers”. He also emphasized the fact that “Mother Earth must be respected” and that we must oppose the notion of “privatizing basic services”. He suggested that all the Popular Movements gathered here should create “a great alliance of the excluded” in order to defend “collective rights”.

The general sentiment of those taking part in this unprecedented Encounter, is that these two interventions confirm the enormous political and moral leadership, on an international level, of President Evo Morales, and the new historical role of Pope Francis as defender, in solidarity, of the struggles of the poor of Latin America and the marginalized people of the world.

(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)

The Vatican, October 27-29, 2014.

The complete discourse of Pope Francis (in Spanish):

The final Declaration of the meeting (in Spanish):

Photo: Pope Francis and President Evo Morales at World Meeting of Popular Movements

Source: Latin America in Movement:

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