Pope Francis on Saturday delivered a speech that demanded powerful institutions change their ways of operating in order to better serve the poor, stressing that the status quo keeps people in poverty, creating an unjust society.
“Personal change is necessary, but it is also indispensable to adjust our socioeconomic models so that they have a human face, because many models have lost it,” the pope said at the World Meeting of Popular Movements, his own initiative for grassroots organizations and church leadership to work together for structural changes in favor of social, economic and racial justice.
He called on several corporate institutions to make foundational changes aligned with helping disadvantaged people ― pharmaceutical labs to release vaccine patents; financial groups to cancel poor countries’ debts; extractive industries to cease destroying the environment; arms manufacturers to stop production; telecommunications giants to make educational material and connectivity more accessible, and more.
He also demanded that the media push harder against disinformation, tech giants “stop preying on human weakness,” and food corporations “stop imposing monopolistic systems of production and distribution that inflate prices and end up withholding bread from the hungry.”
“In the name of God, I call on powerful countries to stop aggression, blockades and unilateral sanctions against any country anywhere on earth. No to neo-colonialism,” he said. “Conflicts must be resolved in multilateral fora such as the United Nations. We have already seen how unilateral interventions, invasions and occupations end up, even if they are justified by noble motives and fine words.
“This system, with its relentless logic of profit, is escaping all human control,” he continued. “It is time to slow the locomotive down, an out-of-control locomotive hurtling towards the abyss. There is still time.”
The 84-year-old pope from Argentina has previously spoken out on many of the issues he mentioned Saturday, especially urging powerful people to create an economically and environmentally just world where the poor and marginalized aren’t left behind by the wealthy elite.
On Saturday, he reiterated his support of protesters ― specifically young people ― who use their transformative power to fight injustice.
“Do you know what comes to mind now when, together with popular movements, I think of the good Samaritan? ... The protests over the death of George Floyd,” he said. “It is clear that this type of reaction against social, racial or macho injustice can be manipulated or exploited by political machinations or whatever, but the main thing is that, in that protest against this death, there was the collective Samaritan who is no fool! This movement did not pass by on the other side of the road when it saw the injury to human dignity caused by an abuse of power.”
Pope Francis is considered one of the most progressive pontiffs ever, having cautioned Catholics to focus on serving the poor and oppressed rather than becoming “obsessed” with topics like abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception. He is also one of the most vocal popes in terms of his commentary on social justice, climate change and systemic oppression.
“Together with the poor of the earth, I wish to ask governments in general, politicians of all parties, to represent their people and to work for the common good,” he said. ”Let them stop listening exclusively to the economic elites, who so often spout superficial ideologies that ignore humanity’s real dilemmas. May they be servants of the people who demand land, work, housing and good living.”