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BOLIVIA, Fri. July 10, 2015 – Reuters/The Guardian (UK)
Pope Francis has urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, denouncing a “new colonialism” by agencies that impose austerity programs and calling for the poor to have the “sacred rights” of labor, lodging and land.

In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born pope used his visit to Bolivia to ask forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic Church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the “so-called conquest of America.”

The pontiff also demanded an immediate end to what he called the “genocide” of Christians taking place in the Middle East and beyond, describing it as a third world war.

Quoting a fourth century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money “the dung of the devil,” and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labor for developed countries.

Repeating some of the themes of his landmark encyclical Laudato Si on the environment last month, Francis said time was running out to save the planet from perhaps irreversible harm to the ecosystem.

– pg. 55, Amandala No. 2909, Sunday, July 12, 2015

When I began my Belizean journey on the road of public controversy many, many years ago, one of the realizations that was very daunting to me was how powerful the Church was, in something as everyday and mundane as public opinion. The way it works on the ground, if you become an opponent of the Church in any way, what this means is that any setback you or your family members experience from thence forward, that setback will be ascribed to divine retribution, or the judgment of God against you because of your sin or aberration.

I’m not trying to open old wounds here, trust me. A lot of things have changed with this new Pope, Francis from South America. At the top of this column, I quoted from an article reproduced from Reuters/The Guardian (UK) on page 55 of last weekend’s Amandala, and if you have not read that article I want you to find it and read it. Some of the statements being made by Pope Francis would have been condemned as “communist” in 1969.

What you must understand is that when Pope Francis says something, it is not the same as some obscure, insignificant columnist in some small Third World country writing that something. Pope Francis is a man of awesome international power. He represents maybe a billion people, perhaps a seventh of planet earth’s population.

A most fundamental aspect of life is this, that there are an elite few human beings who own far more than they need or can ever hope to consume, and there are many, many more who hunger and suffer and need. This is true not only on the individual level, say, but also at the macro level, when one looks at the nation-states of the world. So then, there is stark inequality in the world. Some people call this rank injustice, but there are others who say this is just the way it is, this is the way it has to be, and this is the only way it can be.

Those of the world’s people who apologize for stark inequality and rank injustice are also, in most cases, people who call themselves Christians, which is to say, followers of Jesus Christ. When you read the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, however, these teachings are in contradiction to any kind of philosophy which promotes stark inequality and rank injustice. How have the rulers of the world gotten away with indulging in their rapacity and describing themselves as Christians at the same time? It beats me, Jack. It beats me.

There is a serious materialism which dominates the psyche of the rulers of the world. There is also militarism in their psyche, but I’m not going to discuss militarism today. We’ll just look at the materialism, which is a philosophy wherein human beings focus on the compulsive acquisition of goods which they believe will provide them with happiness. Bottom line, after all, that’s what we want to be, as much as we possibly can – happy.

Materialism has also infected the masses of the world. Do you remember the absolute craze about sneakers in the early and middle 1990s, when Michael Jordan was the ultimate star in the galaxy? Of course you do. That craze for sneakers has been replaced in consumer land by the lust for cell phones of all kinds, so that I am including in the category of cell phones, gadgets I hear being referred to as “i-phones” and “i-pads” and a whole lot of electronic gobbledygook. We gotta have stuff, because everybody else has stuff, and that stuff is gonna make me happy. Wheee! Geez, in the “old” days, people actually killed each other for sneakers. Remember?

Well, it may be that spirituality, by contrast, is only the poor man’s desperate substitute for materialism. In retrospect, I suppose that the religious concepts with which I was imbued as a child and youth basically constituted spirituality. I remember distinctly a conversation with one of my worldly-wise uncles I had before I left Belize in 1965 to study abroad. I was saying to him that I wasn’t that much interested in money, and he said to me, quite correctly and appropriately, that money was a very important thing.

Anyway, there was once a time when the whole of Europe was basically Roman Catholic, and the Pope was all-powerful. Then, about five hundred years ago, there occurred what history calls the Reformation. This was taking place around the same time when a man called Gutenberg invented the printing press. Before the Reformation, Christianity was based on the New Testament, you see, but almost no one had read the Bible, only the educated clergy. The Reformation changed that. The Bible became available (respect, Gutenberg), and a lot of Europeans began to read the “Word of God” for the first time. New interpretations of those words occurred, and new religions arose. This was when Protestantism began. The Catholics responded with what is called the Counter-Reformation, and one of the leaders here in the 1540s was Ignatius Loyola, the Spaniard who founded the Jesuits, which is the religious order to which Pope Francis belonged.

In 2015, if they raised you as a Christian, you can easily get a copy of the New Testament for your own perusal. Some decades ago some “wiseguys” in the churches began to replace the old-fashioned English we had grown up with, with modern English. They were fixing something in the Bible that wasn’t “broke.” Nothing compares with the old-fashioned Biblical English. Sometimes progress ain’t no kind of progress. Whatever, even though the chances are you will be forced to read the inferior modern English, you should surely read Jesus Christ for yourself. Don’t let some neoliberal capitalist shyster interpret the Christ for you. After all, Ras, most of what the Christ taught, He actually learned in Egypt. Check stats.

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