Monday, July 28, 2014

Just Thoughts: Seattle, Pope Francis, and the Poor

Just Thoughts: What Pope Francis Says about Treatment of the Poor

On a recent trip to visit my daughter, I was struck by the vast gap between the wealthy and the poor in Seattle, one of the most successful and prosperous cities in America. Seattle is beautiful in so many ways: its great port, its geography, its exciting Pike Place Market, the green hills, blue lakes, and spectacular Mt. Rainier dominating the region. The trip from wealthy downtown Seattle to the airport is an eye-opener, however, and you see that this city is similar to all American cities. As you travel south from downtown to the airport, you see a change in the city’s complexion. You see Vietnamese, Cambodian, Latino, African-American, and Chinese neighborhoods. So much of this area is shabby and poverty-stricken. And even downtown you see homeless people and beggars on the street, reminding one of Third World countries. Wealth, prosperity, is not close to an equitable division in Seattle.

In Pope Francis’s stunning “apostolic exhortation,” Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel,” his explanation of the Church’s position on this issue is unambiguous, and truly radical. The Pope writes, “Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members. Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.”

Later the Pope writes, “In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.” And then, in paragraph 192, Pope Francis gets even more specific: “We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a ‘dignified sustenance’ for all people, but also their ‘general temporal welfare and prosperity.’ This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use.”

Wow! Pope Francis made the church’s position on these social issues perfectly clear.

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