Papal Audience Moves Outdoors
A promising sign of progress overcoming the coronavirus is this past Wednesday. Pope Francis was able to move his weekly audience outside. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Wednesday audience was Livestreamed from the Vatican Library. Conditions in Rome have improved to the point where people can now assemble in St. Peter’s Square. Let’s hope this progress can continue.
Over the last several weeks Pope Francis has made the topic of his Wednesday afternoon audience catechesis a reflection on various social problems revealed as a result of the pandemic. Francis began the series by addressing concerns about human dignity manifested as a result of the pandemic. That issue has been especially critical in our country as the question of systemic racism has become a serious concern. Francis next addressed the Preferential Option for the Poor, a fundamental principle of our Catholic social teaching. On August 26, Francis spoke on the issue of the interconnectedness of the economy and the environment.
Francis said the pandemic has made it more evident that the world economy is sick. Its unequal growth disregards fundamental human values. While some people have been able to work remotely, many of the poorest cannot and are in danger of contacting the coronavirus. The inability of the children of the poor to receive instruction remotely hinders their equal access to education. A very few of the wealthiest in our world has become even richer as a result of the pandemic. The poorest slip further behind. Francis stated this was an injustice that cries out to heaven.
The Pope said the pandemic reveals our economic system is taking an unsustainable toll on our environment. He pointed out that while the Book of Genesis tells us God gave human beings the ability to dominate our world in God’s name. It was not carte blance to do whatever we want to the environment. Instead, we are to be the stewards of the resources of the world. We are required to share a mutual responsibility for the earth with God. Yes, we need to obtain our subsistence from the earth, but we are required to protect it as well. The world has been given to us by God to keep and sustain.
In his catechesis, Francis taught us we need to work to ensure everyone enjoys the fruits of the earth and not just a few. We are administrators of the world’s good and not their masters. Our property, we need to remember, is given to us to be held only as stewards.
Francis is afraid that homo sapiens are becoming homo-oeonomicus, a species he claims to be focused on being individualistic, calculating, and domineering over all the world. The Pope contends that it is not what we were created to be. It is for community life we were created, he said. Francis used as an example of the first Christian community where, according to the Acts of the Apostles, everyone held their goods in common, so no one was in need.
Every crisis changes people, Pope Francis claimed. It makes them better or worse. We face an option, he says. We will emerge from the pandemic worse if we resist a change of attitude about the purpose of our economy. If we allow ourselves the chance to raise our understanding of social justice and care for our environment, the pandemic experience will lead to a better world. Francis encourages us to work and have hope that after the pandemic, we can regenerate a healthier and more equal world.