Pope Francis has already raised some eyebrows with his 'leftist tint' of ideas and his criticism of multinational corporations and global capitalism, but his speech in Bolivia to a hall filled with social activists, farmers, garbage workers and Bolivian indigenous people, has hit the headlines.
On capitalism, the Guardian quotes the Pope:
The unfettered pursuit of money is the dung of the devil. Poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries.
Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change...(This system) has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature.
This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, labourers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable.
No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice.
The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain 'free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.
He defended labor unions and praised poor people who had formed cooperatives to create jobs where previously "there were only crumbs of an idolatrous economy".
"It is a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable," the Pope said. "This way of thinking has room only for a select few, while it discards all those who are unproductive."
The Pope also offered a direct apology for the complicity of the Roman Catholic Church in the oppression of Latin America during the colonial era when Bolivia suffered stark exploitation, as silver deposits helped finance the Spanish empire, bankroll European colonialism elsewhere and also fill the treasury of the Vatican.
The NYT reports:
"Some may rightly say, ‘When the pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the church,’ " Francis said. "I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God."
He added: "I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America."
This isn't the first time that the Pope has expressed anti-capitalist sentiments. In 2014, before he completed a year in office, he said:
Inequality is the root of social ills ... as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.
In an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Pope had called capitalism a new form of idolatry:
The goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they may be, even in their mothers' wombs. Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one's own human potential.
We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.