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With fiery speeches, Pope launches ‘holy war’ on capitalism

His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticise the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”

Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change.

Pope Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order. The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.

Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor — a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalised in the days of John Paul II. Francis’ increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed — yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policymakers and economists.

Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals. Francis made his speech Wednesday night in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, before nearly 2,000 social activists, farmers, trash workers and neighbourhood activists. Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organisers who work with them.

To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a “throwaway culture” tosses them aside. He sees them as being the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.

In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localised organisations that he said provided productive economies for the poor. “How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves,” he said Wednesday night.

It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His right-leaning critics also argued he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion - while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.

“I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor — rather than just jumping from the reality of people’s misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem,” said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.

— New York Times News Service


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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 10:59:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/with-fiery-speeches-pope-launches-holy-war-on-capitalism/article7414040.ece

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