Times Colonist

Pope book backs Ge­orge Floyd protests, blasts virus skep­tic

- NI­COLE WINFIELD Religion · Politics · Christianity · Catholic Church · Floyd · Pope Francis · United States of America · Vatican · English · Argentine · Buenos Aires · Rome · Donald Trump · Society of Jesus · Germany · Argentina · Pope · Cordoba

Pope Fran­cis is sup­port­ing de­mands for racial jus­tice in the wake of the U.S. po­lice killing of Ge­orge Floyd and is blast­ing COVID-19 skep­tics and me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions that spread their con­spir­a­cies in a new book penned dur­ing the Vat­i­can’s coro­n­avirus lock­down.

In Let Us Dream, Fran­cis also crit­i­cizes pop­ulist politi­cians who whip up ral­lies in ways rem­i­nis­cent of the 1930s, and the hypocrisy of “rigid” con­ser­va­tive Catholics who sup­port them. But he also crit­i­cizes the force­ful down­ing of his­toric stat­ues dur­ing protests for racial equal­ity this year as a mis­guided at­tempt to “pu­rify the past.”

The 150-page book, due out Dec. 1, was ghost-writ­ten by Fran­cis’s English-lan­guage bi­og­ra­pher, Austen Ivereigh, and at times the prose and em­pha­sis seems al­most more Ivereigh’s than Fran­cis’s. That’s some­what in­ten­tional — Ivereigh says he hopes a more col­lo­quial English­s­peak­ing pope will res­onate with English-speak­ing read­ers and be­liev­ers.

At its core, Let Us Dream aims to out­line Fran­cis’s vi­sion of a more eco­nom­i­cally and en­vi­ron­men­tally just post­coro­n­avirus world where the poor, the el­derly and weak aren’t left on the mar­gins and the wealthy aren’t con­sumed only with prof­its.

But it also of­fers new per­sonal in­sights into the 83-yearold Ar­gen­tine pope and his sense of hu­mour.

At one point, Fran­cis re­veals that after he of­fered in 2012 to re­tire as arch­bishop of Buenos Aires when he turned 75, he planned to fi­nally fin­ish the the­sis he never com­pleted on the 20th-cen­tury Ger­man in­tel­lec­tual, Ro­mano Guar­dini.

“But in March 2013, I was trans­ferred to an­other dio­cese,” he dead­pans. Fran­cis was elected pope, and bishop of Rome, on March 13, 2013.

The pub­lisher said the book was the first writ­ten by a pope dur­ing a ma­jor world cri­sis and Ivereigh said it was done as a re­sponse to the coro­n­avirus and the lock­down. For Fran­cis, the pan­demic of­fers an un­prece­dented op­por­tu­nity to imag­ine and plan for a more so­cially just world.

At times, it seems he is di­rect­ing that mes­sage squarely at the United States, as Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion winds down four years of “Amer­ica first” poli­cies that ex­cluded mi­grants from Mus­lim coun­tries and di­min­ished U.S. re­liance on mul­ti­lat­eral diplo­macy. With­out iden­ti­fy­ing the U.S. or Trump by name, Fran­cis sin­gles out Chris­tian-ma­jor­ity coun­tries where na­tion­al­ist-pop­ulist lead­ers seek to de­fend Chris­tian­ity from per­ceived en­e­mies.

“To­day, lis­ten­ing to some of the pop­ulist lead­ers we now have, I am re­minded of the 1930s, when some democ­ra­cies col­lapsed into dic­ta­tor­ships seem­ingly overnight,” Fran­cis wrote. “We see it hap­pen­ing again now in ral­lies where pop­ulist lead­ers ex­cite and ha­rangue crowds, chan­nelling their re­sent­ments and ha­treds against imag­ined en­e­mies to dis­tract from the real prob­lems.”

Peo­ple fall prey to such rhetoric out of fear, not true re­li­gious con­vic­tion, he wrote. Such “su­per­fi­cially re­li­gious peo­ple vote for pop­ulists to pro­tect their re­li­gious iden­tity, un­con­cerned that fear and ha­tred of the other can­not be rec­on­ciled with the Gospel.”

Fran­cis ad­dressed the killing of Floyd, a Black man whose death at the knee of a white po­lice­man set off protests this year across the United States. Re­fer­ring to Floyd by name, Fran­cis said: “Abuse is a gross vi­o­la­tion of hu­man dig­nity that we can­not al­low and which we must con­tinue to strug­gle against.”

But he warned that protests can be ma­nip­u­lated and de­cried the at­tempt to erase his­tory by down­ing stat­ues of U.S. Con­fed­er­ate lead­ers. A bet­ter way, he said, is to de­bate the past through dia­logue.

“Am­pu­tat­ing his­tory can make us lose our mem­ory, which is one of the few reme­dies we have against re­peat­ing the mis­takes of the past,” he wrote.

Turn­ing to the pan­demic, Fran­cis blasted peo­ple who protested anti-virus re­stric­tions “as if mea­sures that gov­ern­ments must im­pose for the good of their peo­ple con­sti­tute some kind of po­lit­i­cal as­sault on au­ton­omy or per­sonal free­dom!”

He ac­cused some in the church and Catholic me­dia of be­ing part of the prob­lem.

“You’ll never find such peo­ple protest­ing the death of Ge­orge Floyd, or join­ing a de­mon­stra­tion be­cause there are shan­ty­towns where chil­dren lack wa­ter or ed­u­ca­tion,” he wrote. “They turned into a cul­tural bat­tle what was in truth an ef­fort to en­sure the pro­tec­tion of life.”

He praised jour­nal­ists who re­ported on how the pan­demic was af­fect­ing the poor­est. But he took a broad swipe at un­named me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions that “used this cri­sis to per­suade peo­ple that for­eign­ers are to blame, that the coro­n­avirus is lit­tle more than a lit­tle bout of flu, and that re­stric­tions nec­es­sary for peo­ple’s pro­tec­tion amount to an un­just de­mand of an in­ter­fer­ing state.”

“There are politi­cians who peddle th­ese nar­ra­tives for their own gain,” he writes. “But they could not suc­ceed with­out some me­dia cre­at­ing and spread­ing them.”

In urg­ing the world to use the pan­demic as an op­por­tu­nity for a re­set, Fran­cis of­fers “three COVID-19” mo­ments, or per­sonal crises of his own life, that gave him the chance to stop, think and change course.

The first was the res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion that nearly killed him when he was 21 and in his se­cond year at the Buenos Aires dioce­san sem­i­nary. After be­ing saved, Fran­cis de­cided to join the Je­suit re­li­gious or­der.

“I have a sense of how peo­ple with the coro­n­avirus feel as they strug­gle to breathe on ven­ti­la­tors,” Fran­cis wrote.

The se­cond COVID- 19 mo­ment was when he moved to Ger­many in 1986 to work on his the­sis and felt such lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion he moved back to Ar­gentina with­out fin­ish­ing it.

The third oc­curred dur­ing the nearly two years he spent in ex­ile in Cor­doba, north­ern Ar­gentina, as penance for his au­thor­i­tar­ian-laced reign as head of the Je­suit or­der in the coun­try.

“I’m sure I did a few good things, but I could be very harsh. In Cor­doba, they made me pay and they were right to do so,” he wrote.

But he also re­vealed that while in Cor­doba he read a 37-vol­ume His­tory of the Popes.

“Once you know that pa­pal his­tory, there’s not that much that goes on in the Vat­i­can Curia and the church to­day that can shock you,” he wrote.

Fran­cis re­peated his call for a univer­sal ba­sic in­come, for wel­com­ing mi­grants and for what he calls the three L’s that every­one needs: land, lodg­ing and labour.

“We need to set goals for our busi­ness sec­tor that — with­out deny­ing its im­por­tance — look be­yond share­holder value to other kinds of val­ues that save us all: com­mu­nity, na­ture and mean­ing­ful work,” he writes.

 ?? THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ?? Pope Fran­cis waves as he ar­rives for the An­gelus noon prayer from the win­dow of his stu­dio over­look­ing St.Peter’s Square, at the Vat­i­can on Sun­day.
THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Pope Fran­cis waves as he ar­rives for the An­gelus noon prayer from the win­dow of his stu­dio over­look­ing St.Peter’s Square, at the Vat­i­can on Sun­day.
 ??  ?? The Pope’s new book Let us Dream is due out Dec. 1.
The Pope’s new book Let us Dream is due out Dec. 1.

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