Arguably, Pope Francis' most important message is his call for a more monetary-modest society. In a region with such vast inequality where the gap between the few haves and the many have nots is massive, this is something that resonates.
Of all the places where Pope Francis' election two-and-a-half years ago was positively greeted, it was among the Catholics in Latin America where it was celebrated the most. Considering the region is home to some 425 million people who subscribe to Rome's teachings (at least in word that is), making it the Catholic Church's most fertile ground on the planet, such a reaction was to be expected. Plus, of course, Argentinian-born Francis, or Jorge Mario Bergoglio to use his birth name, is one of their own and the first ever pope from the Americas.
His rhetoric, following in the example of the saint's name he took for his papacy, Saint Francis of Assisi, has been pretty impressive, too. For a church that has often been criticised for its extravagance, the pope's message of modesty and simplicity is refreshing. What's more, he appears to be taking a more pragmatic, modern-day approach to at least some of the archaic rules that could be seen as holding back Catholicism; he has obviously realised that if his church is to have any real future and relevance in the 21st century it must be more forward thinking.
From a Latin America point of view, he has certainly not forgotten his origins. Already he has made official visits to Brazil (where he is due to return in 2017), Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, alongside his most recent trip to Cuba. In July 2016 he is scheduled to visit his native Argentina as well as neighbouring Chile and Uruguay, while he has also promised to call into both Colombia and Mexico at unspecified dates in the future.
Yet, aside from the fact that he is the spiritual leader for the vast majority of people in these parts, quasi-Catholic in practice as a number of those may be and with an apparent drift away from Rome under way in the region, the old question remains: What real relevance does he, or any pope for that matter, have in today's world?
For sure, church leaders can exert influence and act as catalysts for change. But do those who are actually calling the shots, our elected leaders and powerful business people, take any real heed of what the pope or any other such figure says? At best lip service is paid; and of course for many that's probably a good thing.
Arguably, Pope Francis' most important message is his call for a more monetary-modest society. In a region with such vast inequality where the gap between the few haves and the many have nots is massive, this is something that resonates. Yes, many wealthy people are job creators, but this doesn't mean that a very pronounced two- or three-tier society needs to follow.
There's no doubt that what Pope Francis says is listened to in Central and South America. However, it could be said that the leaders who profess to be the most Catholic here do the least to follow his words. Agree, genuflect and pray, but don't act.
LatinAmerican Post |