Pope Francis and his brand of activism
MANILA, Philippines – The head of the Catholic church has been repeatedly branded as a "communist" – sometimes a rebel – because of his bold pronouncements on "unfettered" capitalism, inequality, and poverty.
In his first year of papacy, Pope Francis published an 84-page apostolic exhortation criticizing capitalism and calling for an economic system that puts people – instead of money – at its core. On a separate occasion, Francis condemned peoples’ tendency to idolize money and even criticized the International Monetary Fund and neoliberalism.
Francis has already denied he is a communist, arguing that he traces his progressive views not from the leftist ideology, but from the Church’s own doctrines.
“Land, roof, and work….It’s odd, but for some, if I talk about these [issues], it turns out the Pope is a communist,” Francis once joked.
Nevertheless, his upcoming visit to the Philippines has gained traction among Filipinos from the whole, divisive range of the political spectrum: right, left, center right, center left – you name it.
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison expressed his support for the papal visit in a web conference that appeared on December 2014.
This is contrary to rumors that the National People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the CPP, is out to harm the Pope.
Brand of activism
"Let's say together with our heart: no family without a roof, no peasant farmer without land, no worker without rights, no person without dignified labour!"
During the World Meeting of Popular Movements held on October 2014, Francis encouraged the brand of activism which goes against the "structural causes" of poverty, and aligns with the doctrines of the Church.
He also urged activists to continue the struggle for the rights of the poor, adding that there should be “no family without a roof, no peasant farmer without land, no worker without rights, no person without dignified labor."
“The fact that the love for the poor is in the center of the gospel is misunderstood. Those for which you’re fighting for are sacred rights. It’s the Church’s social doctrine,” the Pope also said.
According to Edicio de la Torre, the ideas of incarnation and the special preference for the poor are important principles that intersect both the Church’s doctrine and leftist ideology.
De la Torre, is a former priest and former rebel, is also affiliated with Akbayan, a political group presented as an alternative to the Nationa l Democratic Front (NDF).
As exemplified in the holy incarnation, Francis urged Catholics to practice humility, to seek the vulnerable, and to not further deny the disenfranchised and the poor.
“We realize that while the way to change things might be slower, the common element (in the leftist struggle and the Church’s doctrine) is that it should involve the participation of the poor,” De la Torre said.
Francis, the activist
From January 15 to 19, Francis is set to visit the Philippines, a country where 38.6% of total households are cyclical poor, while 8% are persistently poor.
Expectations are high that the Pope will use this opportunity to preach his advocacy against hunger to Philippine leaders, local church leaders, and stakeholders.
Einstein Recedes, spokesperson of Student Christian Movement in the Philippines (SCMP), a group of progressive Christian Filipinos, hopes the visit would be more meaningful to the youth.
“Sana ang inspirasyon na mapupulot natin sa papa ay ang ating pananampalataya ay maconvert sa ating action. Hamon din sa atin kung paano natin babaguhin yung mga nakikita nating mali sa lipunan (Hopefully, Pope Francis will inspire Filipinos to translate their faith and beliefs to actions. It is a challenge for us to change the problems we see in society),” Recedes added.
Pope of action
Beyond the activist that he appears to be, De la Torre reiterated that the Pope “appeals to a broader constituency” because he managed to link the core of the gospel and Church to his actions.
Francis did not only talk about the poor and the sick but also approached, hugged, approached and kissed them; he became one with them.
The Pope is scheduled to visit the storm-hit Tacloban – also one of the poorest provinces in the country – staying true to his words about visiting the poor where they are.
“We have to learn to be on the side of the poor, and not just indulge in rhetoric about the poor! Let us go out to meet them, look in their eyes and listen to them,” the Pope said during the 2014 World Youth Day.
Hopefully, in his visit to this predominantly Catholic nation, Filipinos – activists or not– would learn a thing or two about the Pope’s gospel-based brand of activism which goes beyond rhetoric, and manifests through action. – Rappler