The Pope's message for Latin America

Los pueblos de la región tienen esperanzas que el líder de la Iglesia católica apoye las demandas y movilizaciones de su juventud, mujeres y etnias.

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Pope Francis in the Cathedral Nuestra Señora, in La Paz, Bolivia. Photo: Vicepresidency of Bolivia


On the occasion of his visit to Latin America, the peoples of the region had hopes that Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, would support the demands and mobilizations of Latin American youth, women and ethnic groups, those oppressed and discriminated against. It is significant that Pope Francis included in his trip such countries as Bolivia and Ecuador, whose peoples are engaged in an open struggle against local oligarchies and the imperialist powers of North America and Europe.


As head of State of the Vatican, the Pope of the Catholic Church does not have the power to convoke. His mandate is over a small group of bureaucrats who make up the curia.  On the other hand, as the spiritual leader of more than a billion people in the world, he concentrates in his person an enormous attraction. More than 400 million Catholics live in Latin America.


The recognition by Pope Francis of the popular struggles in Ecuador is a first indication of support for this people. Ecuador is now making enormous advances in its social policy. This is especially the case with the indigenous peoples who were oppressed for centuries. The Pope is giving the Citizen’s Revolution a great recognition. At the same time he rejects the destabilizing efforts of the oligarchy and Washington.


The Pope has not come to Latin America with a pre-established political plan. It is very premature to speak of the building of new blocks. The world is highly divided and the struggle for hegemony is sharpening. In the case of Latin America there are marked divisions. There are still countries dominated by local oligarchies that use their ideological force and/or their armies to oppress their peoples. This division is supported by the United States.


Another visit of the Pope is to Bolivia, a country that is undergoing profound changes. It also has desires for an opening to the sea. They have the whole international community on their side. The fact that the Pope includes Bolivia in his first visit to the region is very significant. Chile, on the other hand, has maintained a mistaken discourse for almost a century over their difference with Bolivia.


There is no doubt that Pope Francis has shown much ability in his discourse with respect to the outstanding elements on the global and regional agenda. With respect to his encyclical in defence of the environment, he has identified those who are responsible for the disastrous panorama for the future of humanity. We are a species in danger of extinction. The Pope reiterates the need to put an end to the politics of "savage capitalism" and the systematic looting that the dominant sectors maintain on a global scale.


The Pope visited the people of Paraguay, rather than the president. He wants to give power to the people in their historic struggle to reconstitute a worthy and sovereign country. This is a rejection on the part of the Pope of the growing militarization and impoverishment of what was an example of development for the whole region.'


There is a clear difference between a Cardinal in the framework of local politics and a Pope who speaks in the name of a Church that claims more than a billion adherents. The president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández, has not changed her populist policy, the result of the correlation of social forces in her country. Her principal concern is that her party wins the next elections. Bergoglio is very far from this electoral struggle between the dominant Argentine sectors. No doubt he would have his preferences.  Nevertheless, he is no longer the Cardinal or the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.


The figure of the Pope -- or the Bishop of Rome -- lost much political influence in the twentieth century. To the extent that he adopts policies closer to the popular sectors he can recover those lost spaces. Something of this allowed John XXIII to restore the profile of a Catholic Church that had been defeated for half a century. In the other direction John Paul II headed an anti-communist crusade that allowed him to consolidate an alliance with the most powerful sectors of the financial world. Now Francis faces the challenges of the XXI century with decision and originality. The question of savage capitalism, the destruction of nature, growing poverty and wars are themes that involve everyone. Francis has touched themes that transcend temples and reach households, work centres and schools of the whole world.


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


- Marco A. Gandásegui, Jr., professor of Sociology of the Universidad de Panamá and Associate Researcher of the Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Justo Arosemena (CELA),
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