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The good news of Pope Francis
Latinamerica Press
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The Pope gave a hopeful and compromised message in front of millions of people in Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.

The visit of Pope Francis to three Latin American countries with significant indigenous populations on July 5-11 was preceded by the publication of his second pontifical encyclical titled “Laudato si” (Praise be to you) which focuses on the defense of the earth, nature and the environment.

“Laudato si,’ mi’ Signore — Praise be to you, my Lord. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs,” says the first paragraph of the encyclical published on June 18.

Subtitled “On care for our common home,” the encyclical emphasizes that “many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.”

The World Council of Churches (WCC), which represents protestant and evangelical denominations, as well as Jewish organizations support the document.

“The letter addresses, in fact, one of the more important challenges of our time: the ecological crisis. This has various components, among them, climate change, the water crisis, the loss of biodiversity. As churches have said many times, climate change has to be seen as a global problem with environmental, social, economic, distributive and political implications. The Pope stresses the scientific consensus on global warming due to human activities and reminds us we need to see climate change as a common good. He furthermore strongly proclaims that “access to safe drinking water is an essential, fundamental and universal human right,” stated the WCC Secretary General, Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit.

The Jewish community, through the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, called the document a “crucial step forward towards demonstrating to our leaders that climate change is a moral issue.”

For a better society
The call of the Pope to combat environmental degradation and climate change was repeated in Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. His call also included a demand for “a change, a real change, a change in structures.”

“This system cannot be tolerated anymore, farmers cannot tolerate it, workers cannot tolerate it, communities cannot tolerate it, peoples cannot tolerate it.  And neither can the Earth tolerate it, the sister Mother Earth, as Saint Francis said,” proclaimed the Pontiff on July 9 addressing the II World Gathering of Popular Movements which took place in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

In Ecuador, during an outdoor Mass on July 7, attended by approximately a million people, including the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, Pope Francis condemned “dictatorships and the ambition and eagerness of single leaderships.”

In Bolivia, President Evo Morales presented the Pope with a replica of the wooden crucifix with a hammer and sickle designed by the Jesuit priest Luis Espinal, who was assassinated on March 22, 1980 by paramilitary forces. For Espinal, that image represented the union between the church and the workers.

The gift was criticized by many as being offensive. Nevertheless, Pope Francis clarified the matter saying that “I understand this artwork; for me it was not offensive.  It should be contextualized taking into consideration the time of the artist who created it, Luis Espinal, a Spanish Jesuit living in Bolivia, who was tortured and assassinated.” Also, Francis clarified that the medals of honor received from the Bolivian government were given to the Virgen of Copacabana, patron saint of Bolivia; “but I will take with me the Christ of Espinal.”

Upon his arrival in Paraguay on July 10, the Pope was received with songs in Guaraní. During his first speech in the country he called for working towards a better society.

“The efforts of all social activists should not cease, until there are no more children without access to education, families without a home, workers without dignified work, farmers without land to cultivate and so many people forced to emigrate into an uncertain future,” said the Pontiff. “Let there be no more victims of violence, corruption, and drug trafficking. An economic development that does not consider the weakest and most unfortunate is not true development. The measure of an economic model has to be the dignity of the human being, especially the most vulnerable and defenseless.”

The papal visit to South America — the second after his participation in the 28th World Youth Day, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July, 2013 — ended with a mass on July 11 in the National Sanctuary of Caacupé in which the Pope referred to the history of Paraguay and gave a special homage “to the women and mothers of Paraguay who with great valor and self-denial have known how to lift up a country defeated, destroyed, and buried by the war.  You all have the memory, the genetics of those who reconstructed the life and dignity of their people” and then he recited the Our Father in Guaraní.
—Latinamerica Press.

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