On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis sent a letter to the members of the World Meeting of Popular Movements, expressing his closeness to them and appreciation for their “war-like” work on the frontlines of the response to the coronavirus crisis.
“Now, in the midst of this pandemic, I think of you in a special way and wish to express my closeness to you. You are truly an invisible army, fighting in the most dangerous trenches; an army whose only weapons are solidarity, hope, and community spirit, all revitalizing at a time when no one can save themselves alone. To me you are social poets because, from the forgotten peripheries where you live, you create admirable solutions for the most pressing problems afflicting the marginalized.”
Pope Francis spoke on how they have been forgotten, living on the peripheries, hit twice as hard without concern for how they will support themselves lacking steady income during life under lockdown, lamenting that they “never receive” the recognition they deserve.
“I know that you have been excluded from the benefits of globalization. You do not enjoy the superficial pleasures that anesthetize so many consciences, yet you always suffer from the harm they produce. The ills that afflict everyone hit you twice as hard. Many of you live from day to day, without any type of legal guarantee to protect you. Street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time and the lockdowns are becoming unbearable.”
Commenting on their lack of income during the crisis, Pope Francis said “market solutions do not reach the peripheries and State protection is hardly visible there”, and proposed a “universal basic wage” to protect worker’s rights.
“This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights. My hope is that governments understand that technocratic paradigms (whether centered or market-driven) are not enough to address this crisis or the other great problems affecting humankind. Now more than ever, persons, communities and peoples must be put at the center, united to heal, to care and to share.”
Speaking on “life after the pandemic,” Pope Francis said he hopes the crisis will “shake our sleepy consciences,” and make way for a “humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money and places human life and dignity at the centre.”
“Our civilization, so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few — needs to downshift, take stock, and renew itself.”
He ended his letter, assuring them of his prayers and blessings, and encouraged them to stand firm in their struggle for each other as brother and sister.
“You are the indispensable builders of this change that can no longer be put off. Moreover, when you testify that to change is possible, your voice is authoritative. You have known crises and hardships that you manage to transform – with modesty, dignity, commitment, hard work and solidarity – into a promise of life for your families and your communities. I want you to know that our Heavenly Father watches over you, values you, appreciates you, and supports you in your commitment.”