Pope Francis is supporting demands for racial justice in the wake of the US police killing of George Floyd and is blasting COVID-19 skeptics and the media that spread their conspiracies in a new book penned during the Vatican’s coronavirus lockdown.
In Let Us Dream, Francis also criticises 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 criticises 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 December 1, was ghost-written by Francis’ English-language biographer, Austen Ivereigh, and at times the prose and emphasis seems almost more Ivereigh’s than Francis.’
At its core, Let Us Dream aims to outline Francis’ vision of a more economically and environmentally just post-coronavirus 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-year-old 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 US reliance on multilateral diplomacy.
Without identifying the US 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, channeling 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.
Francis addressed the killing of Floyd, a Black man whose death at the knee of a policeman set off protests this year across the United States. He also reflected on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and other #MeToo abuses of power that he said are rooted in a sense of entitlement, domination and arrogance over others.
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