IN his first visit to AfricaPope Francis’ messages addressed the continent’s main problems—corruption, lack of peace, order and discipline and politicians who refuse to leave their positions of power.
He might have been giving a speech to us Filipinos.
Kenyans themselves admit that their country is plagued by government corruption. The US-supported Kenyan military, fighting the spillover into Kenya of al-Shabab Islamic extremists in Somalia, is also engaged with Somali partners in sugar and charcoal smuggling.
The world cannot forget the late unlamented comically evil Idi Amin of Uganda. Its President Yoweri Museveni now has been in power since 1986 and has held power only six years less than Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980. As in the Philippines, the vast majority of multi-ethnic, multi-religious Uganda people are poor and like more than 90 percent of the Filipinos, have not tasted the benefits of the relatively rich economy.
The most unfortunate of the three countries Pope Francis visited is the Central African Republic, which is a war zone. Some 4,000 French and UN peacekeeping soldiers are there to prevent bloodshed between Christians and Muslims. The Pope literally risked his life in going to the CAR. He gave a heartbreaking talk to fellow Christians, as well as to Muslims.
He kept stressing that Christians and Muslims are brothers. We hope his message also reached people of all countries.
Pope Francis’ words in Malacañang
In his visit to us last January—for which he and his mother were unjustly cursed by Davao’s Mayor Rodrigo Duterte—the Catholic Father said he had come to our country above all for pastoral reasons. He identified with us, Filipino Catholics, who were preparing to celebrate the fifth centenary of the first proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on our shores.
“The Christian message has had an immense influence on Filipino culture. It is my hope that this important anniversary will point to its continuing fruitfulness and its potential to inspire a society worthy of the goodness, dignity and aspirations of the Filipino people.
In a particular way, this visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda. Together with many people throughout the world, I have admired the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster, and so many others.” Until now, of course, more than two years after Haiyan/Yolanda struck, many of the supertyphoon’s victims are still living in unsanitary temporary quarters.
He said: “Today the Philippines, together with many other countries in Asia, faces the challenge of building on solid foundations a modern society – a society respectful of authentic human values, protective of our God-given human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions.
“As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good. In this way they will help preserve the rich human and natural resources with which God has blessed this country. Thus will they be able to marshall the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace. Essential to the attainment of these national goals is the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity. The great biblical tradition enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the poor. It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.
“Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart. The Bishops of the Philippines have asked that this year be set aside as the “Year of the Poor”. I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community.”
One wonders if President BS Aquino, who had a meeting with Pope Francis the other day, remembered these words spoken in Malacañang last January.