Catholics are Called to be God’s People, Not God’s Elite: Pope Francis

Pope Francis records a video message for judges released Nov. 30, 2020. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Catholics are called to be God’s people, not God’s elite, Pope Francis said in a video message Monday.

In the message to a virtual meeting of judges, released Nov. 30, the pope said that those who truly sought social justice did not regard themselves as “an enlightened elite,” but rather as a people dedicated to “the work of including, integrating and raising the fallen.”

He said: “And, from the Gospel, what God asks of us believers is to be God’s people, not God’s elite. Because those who go the way of ‘God’s elite’ end up in the so well-known elitist clericalisms that, out there, work for the people, but nothing with the people, without feeling like a people.”

The pope was addressing judges belonging to the recently formed Committee for Social Rights of Africa and America. The judges -- from 18 countries including the United States -- were meeting online for a two-day event entitled “Building the new social justice.” 

The Committee brings together two groups under the aegis of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: the Pan-American Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine, formally established on June 4, 2019, and the Pan-African Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine. 

The Committee draws on the magisterium of Pope Francis to promote the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of the world’s most vulnerable people.

In his address, the pope identified six principles which he said should guide efforts to promote social justice. 

The first, he said, was to remain connected to the reality that “a small part of humanity lives in opulence, while an ever increasing number are denied dignity and their most basic rights are ignored or violated.”

The second was to remember that justice is “a collective work” and the third was to display “an attitude of commitment, following the path of the Good Samaritan.”

The fourth was the importance of remembering and drawing on the past, and the fifth was the centrality of “the people.”

The sixth and final “basis” for social justice was solidarity in the fight against the causes of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

The pope said: “Let us build the new social justice by assuming that the Christian tradition never recognized as absolute and untouchable the right to private property and always stressed the social function of any of its forms.”

“The right to property is a secondary natural right derived from the right that everyone has, born from the universal destination of created goods. There is no social justice that can be cemented in inequality, which is the concentration of wealth.”

Pope Francis sent a second, shorter video message to judges gathered for the event. He recalled his words when he met them at the Casina Pio IV, the Vatican headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in June 2019. On that occasion, he compared the judges to poets. 

In his Nov. 30 message, he said: “The poet needs to contemplate, think, understand the music of reality and translate it into words. In each decision, in each sentence, you are faced with the happy possibility of writing poetry: a poetry that heals the wounds of the poor, that integrates the planet, that protects Mother Earth and all her descendants. A poetry that repairs, redeems, nurtures.”

He added: “And, please, always remember that when justice is really just, that justice makes countries happy and their people worthy. No sentence can be just, nor any law legitimate, if what they produce is more inequality, if what they produce is more loss of rights, indignity or violence.”


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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

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