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What the Pope Has to Say

September 21, 2015 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen


Photo Fr.Shay meets Pope Francis.

What the Pope Has to Say
Fr. Shay Cullen, mssc

The meeting I was privileged to have with Pope Francis in the Vatican last Thursday, 17 September was at the conclusion of five days of discussions and presentations on the condition of street children and women and the issues of child abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, the legalization and decriminalization of prostitution. It also made a plan of action that included how best to challenge the Church leaders and civil society to end the misery of street children and women by doing more to end poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals on poverty reduction. It is poverty that drives millions of children and women onto the streets where they are vulnerable to every kind of exploitation.

The background to the meeting with Pope Francis is the invitation for 42 Church people helping children and women on the streets to an International Symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Street organized by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The aim of the meeting was to draw up a plan of action to respond to the phenomenon of women and children – and their families – who live mainly on the streets.

This is the new direction that Pope Francis is taking- holding symposiums and consultations with the Church people in specialized fields of ministry. He is listening to the grassroots and in this way making direct contact from the streets to his office. In the past, it was usually instructions and exhortations of Vatican to the grassroots.

These instructions and exhortations of the past were not very effective since the Vatican officials had no experience of life on the streets and so were writing lofty theological exhortations with a sprinkling of New Testament quotations to add flavor to the formal document. But now under Pope Francis, consultations and getting and processing feedback from the parish level is ongoing in preparation for the synod of bishops this coming October.

The group sharing, discussions and conclusions and recommendations of what more the leaders can do to help the children and women of streets was our task. There were representatives from 42 countries. They gave a challenging review of what is happening in their respective countries and the condition of the street children and women. It’s not good. Many more poor people are losing their land, jobs, livelihoods and homes and going to live on the streets.

When he arrives in the United States of America, he will have only 2 speeches in English and the rest in his native Spanish. The Hispanic communities will love it. It is hoped that he will address the roots of poverty and globalization of exploitation of the poor. He gave a strong speech on the evils and damaging influence of liberal, unfettered capitalism.

It is expected he will raise this also in New York at the United Nations and will exhort the UN members to implement the Millennium Development Goals where he has called for the elimination of modern slavery and human trafficking.

If he does so, it will be explosive and a real challenge of true Christianity to the business world of finance and the capitalist system. This is the root cause of street poverty, the migration of people from all parts of the world.

The capitalist system has plundered the developing world to enrich itself at the expense of the poor, a billion people- women and children- go hungry in a world that wastes a billion dollars worth of food every day.

The riches have gone north for a hundred years and left behind war and famine. Where else will the people go but to follow that wealth stolen for the most part of the former colonial nations? Now thousands refugees are streaming northwards in an unstoppable tsunami of human suffering and deprivation seeking a life of dignity and peace.

We have to change the systems under which trade and commerce is done and bring a life of quality and dignity to the most vulnerable of all the children and women of the streets.


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