Pope urges politics rooted in service; attending to local concerns

A politics that takes the people’s path and is rooted in service and local concerns is the best antidote to populism, Pope Francis says.

In a speech to an online conference, he opened up about his thinking on how to combat populist trends.

Francis’s vision is for a “popularism” that focuses on “finding the means to guarantee a life for all people that is worthy of being called human” when it comes to work, wages and housing. This involves walking the people’s path with them and listening to them.

His message was sent to an online event reflecting on the Pope’s recent book, Let Us Dream.

It was organised by the Centre for Theology and Community in East London and six other Catholic institutions from the UK, US, Germany and Italy.

Francis’s message also discussed “inclusive populism”. This is a type of populism put forward in writings by Anglican priest, Angus Ritchie (pictured).

As the Theology and Community Centre’s leader, Ritchie’s aim is to engage grassroots communities in the public square to combat two extremes.

These are the exploitative populism of the far-right and the failure of liberal politics to engage a broad cross-section of groups in decision making.

He says the Pope has inspired his thinking.

A renewed political vision, Francis explained in his speech, is a “politics with a capital P” which is not “just for the people, but with the people, rooted in their communities and in their values”.

By contrast, populism is a form of “political paternalism”, controlled by ideology and which goes by the slogan “everything for the people, nothing with the people”.

Politics which has “contempt” for the culture of the people, including their “cultural, religious and spiritual values” is the beginnings of the abuse of power, he said.

“A politics that turns its back on the poor will never be able to promote the common good. A politics that turns its back on the peripheries will never be able to understand the centre and will confuse the future with a self-projection, as if in a mirror,” he said.

“Some accuse you of being too political, others of trying to impose religion.

“But you understand that respect for the people means respect also for their institutions, including their religious ones; and that the role of those institutions is not to impose anything but to walk with the people, reminding them of the face of God who always goes before us.”



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