By Christians for National Liberation
The Christians for National Liberation, together with all progressive Christians and the broad masses, welcome and highly anticipate the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. Dubbed as the “People’s Pope”, Christians who fight for national sovereignty, social justice and genuine democracy can be inspired by the Pope’s life of loving service to the “least, lost and last” of society. As an “activist Pope”, Francis has shown to us the life of authentic discipleship: living a life of simplicity and embracing the struggle of the poor and marginalized.
The Pope’s visit can strengthen the pro-people Christians to put into practice the church’s social teachings and encourage them to emulate his life of loving service, while cognizant of the conservative and reactionary dogmas and positions of the institutional Church.
In line with the Pope’s visit to the Philippines, CNL wishes to highlight the following important points:
Support and put into practice Pope Francis’ teachings and statements that are beneficial to the Filipino people.
Ever since he assumed the papacy, Francis is consistent in making pronouncements and formulating teachings that are pro-poor. Immediately after his election as Pope, Francis declared: “I want a church that is poor and for the poor!” In his first Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG), Francis reminds Christians of their primary task of serving the poor: “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.” (EG 186). Similarly, in an international gathering of grassroots social activists Pope Francis directed them to to struggle against the “structural causes” of poverty and inequality, with a “revolutionary” program drawn from the Gospels: solidarity entails “struggling against the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and shelter, the denial of social and labor rights.”
Social transformation and being on the side of the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized has always been at the heart of the Pope’s teachings: “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. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.” (EG 187)
Emulate Pope Francis’ pro-poor stand and his life of simplicity and loving service.
Church people can draw strength from the Pope’s progressive views to continue serving their communities and fighting evil and oppression in society. In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis reiterates the task of pastoral workers in the church: “today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity” (EG 78). He reminds church leaders to “obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’. He sees the centrality of service to the poor as the key to our Christian identity: “there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.” (EG 48) “Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbor, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and poverty, are required of everyone.” (EG 201). To concretize his pro-poor stand and his life of simplicity, the Pope remarked that he prefers “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” (EG 49)
Learn from Pope Francis’ sharp criticism of the evils of the capitalist system.
In a speech delivered before Italian bishops, the Pope asked the bishops to be “ready to re-examine the current model of development that exploits creation, sacrifices people at the altar of profit and creates new forms of marginalization and exclusion.” He vehemently condemns the economic system that is “centered on the god of money” which also needs to plunder nature in order to maintain the frenetic pace of consumption inherent in it. He emphasized the urgent need to critically evaluate the structural causes of so much inequality “which robs us of work, housing and land.”
Capitalism, which Pope Francis calls “an economy of exclusion by an idolatrous system of money” tends to “devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market.” (EG 56)
We need to learn from the Pope’s teaching that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of the markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems because inequality is the root of social ills.” (EG 202)
Raise outstanding socio-political issues in our country and link the broadest number of the Church sector to the struggle of the basic masses.
True to his class and being subservient to the dictates of his true “bosses” — the US government, big comprador bourgeoisie, the big landlords and corrupt bureaucrats— Aquino is the ultimate puppet of US imperialism and the great defender of bureaucrat capitalists. In so doing, he blatantly neglects and abandoned the poor and marginalized sectors of society.
Through the Papal visit, the Filipino people hope to draw attention to the pressing problems of poverty, exploitation of workers, land monopolies and feudal oppression, the wide gap between the super-rich ruling elite and the rest of the toiling people, human rights violations and the widespread use of state terror against the people.
Pope Francis’ visit to the country could bolster the Filipino people’s pursuit for justice. In particular, the church people are fed up with Aquino’s lies and deception. Aquino’s continued support for neoliberal economic policies reveals his utter disregard and detestation towards the toiling masses. Progressive church people and people’s organizations can take this occasion to show to the global community the real situation of the country: hunger, joblessness, low wages, landlessness, rising prices of basic commodities and poverty.
The Aquino government’s utter neglect and abandon of Yolanda victims must be exposed during the Pope’s visit to Tacloban. The present administration must be held accountable for the criminal negligence of the Aquino regime to the more than 8,000 people who died and disappeared during super typhoon Yolanda last November 8, 2013.
We also hope that Pope Francis who took on the name of St.Francis, the saint of peace, will impart a clear message that the roots of armed conflict is addressed, social justice is attained to have just and lasting peace.
Arouse, organize and mobilize the church people to participate in the national democratic revolution
In Evangelii Gaudium, Francis cautioned pastoral workers who espouse certain pessimistic attitude: “Some people do not commit themselves to mission because they think that nothing will change and that it is useless to make the effort. They think: ‘Why should I deny myself my comforts and pleasures if I won’t see any significant result”? (EG 275) He reminded the pastoral workers on what authentic faith is all about: “an authentic faith—which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”
In his address to the World Meeting of Popular Movements, Pope Francis highlights the importance of the “culture of encounter in the service of poor persons, of poor peoples and of this poor Church for the poor.” He sees in popular movements the indispensable contribution to the building of a more just and fraternal society: “we the poor want to take hold of our own destiny, and the Church wants to accompany this in the process.”
Heeding Pope Francis’ observation that “the poor not only suffer injustice but they also struggle against it!” we must therefore exert extra effort to arouse, organize and mobilize members of the church—bishops, priests, religious and laypeople in the urgent call to oust the landlord president. We make a vow to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the vast majority of workers, peasants, urban poor, women and the youth.
Lastly, may we find strength in these words by Pope Francis after a meeting with activists in Rome: “Dear sisters and brothers continue with your struggle, you do good to us all. It is a blessing of humanity!”
The Pope’s visit is an opportune time for church people to re-examine their Christian commitment of loving God and loving their neighbour by joining all progressive and patriotic forces in waging the national democratic revolution. Genuine revolutionary change will only happen by putting an end to the oppressive, exploitative, corrupt and US-backed Aquino regime.