Fight the fear, put people first, pope tells grassroots movements

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When the search for profits outweighs
all other considerations in society, money becomes a god who terrorizes
humanity — excluding the majority of people and causing those still well off
to build walls to cower behind, Pope Francis said.

“The entire social doctrine of the church and the
magisterium of my predecessors rebel against money as an idol that reigns
instead of serves, tyrannizing and terrorizing humanity,” the pope said.

Like all forms of terrorism, the terrorism of an economy
focused only on making money relies on people’s fear for effectiveness, Pope
Francis said Nov. 5 during a meeting at the Vatican with participants in the
third World Meeting of Popular Movements, a collection of grassroots organizations
of the poor, the underemployed, indigenous communities and farmworkers.

“When this terror, which is sown in the peripheries
with massacres, pillaging, oppression and injustice, explodes in the centers
with various forms of violence — including odious and vile attacks — the
citizens who still have some rights are tempted by the false security of
physical or social walls,” he said. “Walls that enclose some and
exile others.”

Frightened citizens building walls on one side and
frightened and excluded people on the other — “is this the life that God
our father wants for his children?” the pope asked.

Wherever there is fear, he said, there is someone who will
increase and manipulate it. “Because fear, besides being good business for
merchants of weapons and death, weakens and destabilizes us, destroying our
psychological and spiritual defenses, anesthetizing us to the suffering of
others and, in the end, making us cruel.”

Pope Francis said mercy is the “best antidote” to
fear. It works better than anti-depression medicine and is “much more
effective than walls, iron bars, alarms and weapons. And it is free.”

Mercy and courage also are needed to respond to the huge
wave of refugees, migrants and displaced people all over the globe, he said.

“No one should be forced to flee his or her
homeland,” he said. “But the evil is doubled when, facing terrible
circumstances, the migrant is thrown into the clutches of human traffickers to
cross the border. And it is tripled if, arriving in the land where he or she
hoped to find a better future, one is despised, exploited or even

Pope Francis urged members of the popular movements to lobby
their governments to be more welcoming of migrants and to improve programs to
ensure their integration into their host societies.

The political activism of the groups, he said, is important
for ensuring true democracy and not simply an attitude where politicians address
poverty without ever listening to or responding to the poor.

In democracies, he said, people who “seek the common
good can defeat, with the help of God, the false prophets who exploit fear and
desperation, who sell magic formulas of hatred and cruelty or selfish
well-being and illusory security.”

When getting involved in politics, though, the pope said,
members of the movement must guard against corruption.

All people are called to be honest, he said, but politicians
and public servants have an even greater obligation. “The standard is very
high: one must live the vocation of service with a strong sense of austerity
and humility. This applies to politicians, but also for social leaders and for
us pastors.”

Pope Francis said politics is not the place for “anyone
who is too attached to material things or to the mirror, those who love money,
lavish banquets, sumptuous houses, refined clothes, luxury cars.”

They don’t belong in the seminary, either, he said.

Seeking power or money “sullies the noble cause”
of politics as service, the pope said.

“Fight the fear with a life of service, solidarity and
humility on behalf of the people, especially those who suffer,” he said.
“Against the terror, the best remedy is love. Love heals all.”

Saying that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “always
chose fraternal love, even in the midst of the worst persecution and
humiliation,” Pope Francis quoted from one of the sermons of the civil
rights leader:

“Hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate
and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and
you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never
ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong
person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the
chain of evil.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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