Pope Francis explains "If the Church ignores the poor, it ceases to be the Church of Jesus..." FULL TEXT + Video


Video message of Pope FRANCIS 



Dear brothers and sisters:

I am happy to say a word of greeting to you at the beginning of this conference organized by the Center for Theology and Community in London on the themes dealt with in the book Soñemos Juntos , especially with regard to popular movements and organizations that support them.

I especially greet the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which celebrates 50 years helping the poorest communities in the United States to live more with dignity, promoting their participation in the decisions that affect them.

Other organizations present here, from the United Kingdom, Germany, and other countries also work in this dimension, whose mission is to accompany the people in their struggle for land, shelter and work, the famous three "T", and remain by their side when they run into attitudes of opposition and contempt. The poverty and exclusion from the job market that result from this pandemic that we are experiencing have made your work and testimony much more urgent and necessary.

One of the objectives of your meeting is to show that the true response to the rise of populism is not precisely more individualism but the opposite: a politics of brotherhood, rooted in the life of the people. In his recent book, Reverend Angus Ritchie describes this policy that you make as "inclusive populism"; I like to use "popularism" to express the same idea [1] . But what matters is not the name but the vision, which is the same: it is about finding mechanisms to guarantee all people a life worthy of being called human, a life that is capable of cultivating virtue and forging new bonds [2 ] .

In Soñemos Juntos , I call this policy “politics with a capital letter”, politics as a service, which opens new paths for the people to organize and express themselves. It is a policy not only for the people but with the people, rooted in their communities, and in their values. Instead, populisms rather follow as inspiration, conscious or unconscious, another motto: "Everything for the people, nothing with the people", political paternalism. Hence, the people in the populist vision are not the protagonists of their destiny, but end up being the debtor of an ideology.

When the people are discarded, they are deprived not only of material well-being but also of the dignity of acting, of being the protagonist of their history, of their destiny, of expressing themselves with their values ​​and culture, of their creativity, of their fruitfulness. For this reason, for the Church it is impossible to separate the promotion of social justice from the recognition of the values ​​and culture of the people, including the spiritual values ​​that are the source of their sense of dignity. In Christian communities, these values ​​are born from the encounter with Jesus Christ, who tirelessly searches for those who are discouraged or lost, who travel to the very limits of existence, to be the face and presence of God, to be "God with us."

Many of you gathered here have been working for years doing this in the peripheries, and accompanying popular movements. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable. Some accuse you of being too political, others of wanting to impose religion. But you perceive that respecting the people is respecting their institutions, including religious ones; and that the role of these institutions is not to impose anything but to walk with the people, reminding them of the face of God that always comes before us.

That is why the true shepherd of a town, a religious shepherd, is one who dares to walk in front of, in the middle, and behind the town. In front to point the way a little, in the middle to feel with his people and not make mistakes, and behind to help those who lag behind and to let the people with their nose also find paths.

That is why in Soñemos Juntos I speak of a wish: that all the dioceses of the world have a sustained collaboration with popular movements [3] .

Going out to meet the wounded and risen Christ in the poorest communities allows us to regain our missionary vigor, because that is how the Church was born, on the periphery of the Cross. If the Church ignores the poor, it ceases to be the Church of Jesus and revives the old temptations to become an intellectual or moral elite, a new form of Pelagianism, or of Essene life [4] .

Similarly, a policy that ignores the poor can never promote the common good. A politics that ignores the peripheries will never understand the center and will confuse the future with projecting itself through a mirror.

One way to ignore the poor is to despise their culture, their spiritual values, their religious values, either by discarding or exploiting them for purposes of power. Contempt for popular culture is the beginning of the abuse of power.

By recognizing the importance of spirituality in the life of peoples, politics is regenerated. That is why it is essential that communities of faith meet, fraternize, to work "for and with the people." With my brother, the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, we “assumed” the culture of dialogue as a way; common collaboration as behavior; and reciprocal knowledge as a method and criterion [5] . Always at the service of the people.

Now, more than ever, dear friends, we must build a future from below, from a policy with the people, rooted in the people. And may your conference help illuminate the way. Thank you.


[1] Cf. Inclusive Populism: Creating Citizens in the Global Age (Univ. Notre Dame Press, 2019).

[2]  Cf. Let's Dream Together: The way to a better future. Conversations with Austen Ivereigh  (Simon & Schuster, 2020), p. 116.

[3]  Cf. ibid. , p. 126.

[4]  Cf. ibid. , p. 124.

[5]  Cf. Document on human fraternity for world peace and common coexistence , Abu Dhabi (February 4, 2019), cited in Letter enc. Fratelli tutti , b. 285.

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