Seo agus Siud Edition 11 June 2021
Dreams, Pathways and Future… how could a title like this not draw us in?
So join me in this short review of the challenging, but delightful insights of Pope Francis, and what he is struggling with in our times. Perhaps this reflection will encourage all of us to read this unique and enlightening book.
There is a spiritual urgency and real warmth in these pages, which can be read as a book of prophecy and hope, a book that demands a new politics of inclusion.
In conversation with the English Catholic author, Austen Ivereigh, Pope Francis wrote this book during that first strange and surreal phase of the Pandemic in 2020.The experience of Covid 19 was traumatic and disturbing for Pope Francis, as for so many of us. In this book we are allowed into his thinking, more than ever before, and witness the sheer humanity, and compassion of the man that he is. Across the world, the crisis led to one sick patient after another, fighting just to breathe, in overwhelmed care facilities, while our streets fell silent, and global lockdown brought the world to a shuddering halt. Pitilessly, this unknown virus began to demonstrate to us our mutual dependence, our fragility, and our common vulnerability, and it clearly shone the light on the myth of self-
We were now dependent on one another
“Let us dream” The pathway to a better future, Pope Francis
Front Line Workers
In our fears and anxieties, we marvelled with great gratitude on the work of front-
“These are the Saints next door, who have woken something important in our hearts, the antibodies to the virus of indifference, and a sign of contradiction to the individualism, self-
But he also shows his understanding of what most of us felt.
“A stoppage can always be a good time for sifting, for revealing the past, for remembering with gratitude who we are , what we have been given, what needs to change, the relationships we have neglected, the idols we have been serving, and where we may have gone astray.” And he verbalizes just how we all suffered, “social distancing is a necessary response to a pandemic, but it cannot last without eroding our humanity. We were born not just for connection, but for contact. We yearn for the touch of those we love, which we must sometimes give up for their sakes and ours. Touch is a deeply human need.”
The Global South
In his frustration with how our world is, he rages about the lives of the dispossessed, the forgotten, the excluded, and the grievously mistreated, as with the Rohingya people, the Uighur Muslims, the struggle of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and the pandemic of hunger, violence and abuse, and selective vaccinating. He speaks of the Rohingya people “as the most persecuted group on earth right now. I try to be close to them because, how they live is an injustice that cries to the heavens…an entire population cornered and corralled”.. and further on he says “they like many others are denied the most elemental rights to hygiene, to food, to clothes, to a home, to a dignified life, and to compassion and care…living in torture chambers, in an abyss of indifference”.
In his struggle, faced with the great chasm between the Global North, and the Global South, the Pope asks each of us to open our eyes to the realities around us, of so many people abandoned in our world when he writes ”You have to go to the edges of existence, if you want to see the world as it is, go to places of desperation, desolation and misery, of exclusion and suffering, of illness, neglect and solitude, places that could be full of life, possibility and hope.”
Pope Francis continues to reflect on all that is imbalanced in our world, saying “How can a vast inequality in wealth be acceptable in our world, that half of the world’s wealth is owned by 1% of the population?
He believes that “the sins of the powerful, are almost always sins of entitlement, committed by people whose lack of shame and brazen arrogance are stunning. The goods of life, land, lodging, and labour should be made available to all. This is not altruism or goodwill; it is what love demands.”
Leadership by Women
Pope Francis writes warmly of the role of women in the Church, and in other aspects of life. He reminds us that the women who walked with Jesus in the Gospel, were women of strength, not paralysed by tragedy or fear, nor did they flee in times of disaster…
He reminds us that “women today in this Pandemic, have been able to hold it together, to get around obstacles in their path, and keep hope alive in their families and communities”. Interestingly he asks, “Could it be that in this crisis, the perspective women bring, is what the world needs at this time, to face the oncoming crises? A sign of hope in this crisis is the leading role of women. Women have been at the same time among the most affected, and the most resilient in this crisis. 70% of all who work in Health worldwide are women. The countries who voted in women as Prime Ministers or Presidents, have on the whole, reacted or responded better, and more quickly than others. Many women are becoming more aware of the flaws in the dominant economic models, of at least the last 70 years, and are more likely to advocate an economy that sustains, protects and regenerates, not just regulates and arbitrates.
Pope Francis has been deeply critical about many serious issues in this little book, especially what he calls “the cancer of clericalism” in the Church, which he believes comes from a sense of entitlement. He also abhors corruption, and especially financial corruption in the Vatican. He continues to speak about abuse “the perversion of a vocation to the priesthood, and a gross violation of human dignity that cannot be allowed”. He writes; “I want to make it clear that an expanded role for women in the church doesn’t depend on the Vatican, and is not limited to specific roles.” Having appointed many women over these years to work alongside him in the Vatican, Pope Francis says ”The women I have appointed in the Vatican are there because of their skills and experience, but also to influence the vision and mind set of the Church bureaucracy, integrating without demeaning the viewpoints of women. To say that women in the Church are not truly leaders, because they aren’t priests, is clericalist and disrespectful”…
Throughout the book, Pope Francis shares some of his personal, traumatic dark times with us, and calls them “Covid” experiences. In 1957, when he was 21 Jorge Mario Bergoglio was very ill, suffering from pain, loneliness and limitations, all of which changed the way he saw life, as he hung between life and death. He was sent in 1986 to Germany to study, which he described as a “Covid of Displacement, when he was pining for his homeland, living the solitude of non-
As a path to a better future, Pope Francis introduces us to an ancient, but new process Synodality, which he describes as ”With the gift of dialogue between women and men, when people trust one another, and humbly seek the good together, and are willing to learn from each other in mutual exchange of gifts, a new and greater creativity is released, and leads to overflow. My concern, as Pope, has been to encourage such overflow within the Church by invigorating the ancient practise of SYNODALITY…or walking together”. Pope Francis gives the example of the EU, where many major decisions on Europe are made on a daily basis, and though many differences exist, many decisions are achieved in reconciliation. This is a strong theme in the final pages of this book, and he believes that the harmony that results can be complex, rich and unexpected. “Ecclesial Synodality allows us to walk together, seeking the truth, and taking on the richness of the polar tensions at stake.Lasting peace is about creating and maintaining processes of mutual listening ….The Synodal approach is something our world now needs badly”…..
More words of hope spill on to the final pages as the Pope concludes,
“Right now in 2020, what I see gives me hope. It is the people’s movement, calling for profound change, a change that flows from the roots, from the concrete needs of people, that arises from the dignity and the freedom of people.
Without the “we” of a people, of a family, of institutions and of society, that transcends the “I” of individual interests, life quickly fractures and becomes violent, and a battle for supremacy”….
In conclusion we could ask …as Pope Francis does
“What humanises and dehumanises, in our society at present ?
Where is the Good news hidden with the sombre stories ?
Where is the bad spirit dressed up as the angel of light ?
With the lessons we have learnt from this Covid virus, how do we build our own future”?
Bringing this to an end, I draw your eye to the gentle poem, Esperanza (Hope) by Alexis Valdés on page 140
……what a finale..!
Front Line Workers
And we will understand how fragile it is to be alive.
We’ll sweat empathy for those still with us,
and those who are gone”.
And all will become a miracle,
and all will become a legacy,
And we’ll respect the life, the life we have gained”