A pope for the common people

Solidarity will undergo a revival Sept. 22-27 when Pope Francis makes his first-ever visit to the United States. Economic justice will be a major part of his message. In Washington, D.C., he’ll be the first pope to address a joint session of the United States Congress, and immediately after, he’ll lunch with homeless, mentally ill, and immigrant clients of Catholic Charities. In New York, he’ll speak to the United Nations General Assembly, and visit immigrant day laborers and Harlem schoolchildren. And in Philadelphia, he’ll visit a prison, celebrate a public mass, and deliver a speech at the World Meeting of Families.

Graphic and quote courtesy of OR AFL-CIO

Since Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical On Capital and Labor, popes have criticized capitalist exploitation and consumerism. But Francis, more than other recent popes, has kept a focus on economic morality.

“He’s very critical of an unbridled capitalist system, a totally uncontrolled free market, because the results are inequity,” says Father Chuck Lienert, Pastor Emeritus at Portland’s St. Andrew Catholic Church, and a member of the Faith Labor Committee of Portland Jobs with Justice. “He’s really talking about what it means to be a Christian in a broad sense, and part of that is issues of social justice.”

Lienert points to two documents in particular that outline the Pope’s views: In Evangelii Gaudium, he takes aim at trickle-down free-market ideology and the economy of exclusion and inequality; and in Laudato Si, he talks of the moral responsibility to deal with climate change, pollution, and waste and the evils of a throwaway culture.

“For the labor movement, Pope Francis’s lessons of solidarity and inclusion are exactly what we need,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at a day-long meeting with Catholic bishops in June. “Part of the greatness of Pope Francis is that he sees everyone.  And in seeing those who are excluded and suffering, he lifts all of us up so we can see and hear each other.”



  • Watch the Pope’s address to Congress St. Andrew Catholic Church will hold a breakfast – open to all members of the public – at which attendees can watch Pope Francis address to Congress live. That’s at 806 NE Alberta Ave., in the gym, Thursday, Sept. 24. Doors open at 5 a.m. The event starts at 6:30 and the address begins at 7 a.m. PST.
  • Response to the Address The Faith Labor Committee of Portland Jobs with Justice is sponsoring an Interfaith Blessing of Workers in response to the Pope’s address to U.S. Congress. The hour-long event will include statements from clergy as well, and brief presentations about several local worker justice campaigns. That’s at noon, Thursday, Sept. 24, at the First Christian Church of Portland, 1314 SW Park Ave.

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