By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
On May 1, traditionally also called the international worker’s day, which is celebrated as a holiday throughout the world, Pope Francis sent a message from the Vatican to the workers of the world in which he underlined the urgent tasks which people with political responsibility have to face in these days. He demanded from the “the politically responsible to not forget two things: the dignity of man and the common Good”.
Since the beginning of his pontificate Pope Francis has focused his attention on the need to fight against poverty and for the common good. This was a key subject of his recent Encyclical “Evangelii Gaudium” in which the Pope characterized a society as bad and unjust when it fails to offer each individual the chance to work. Such an economy favors the right of the stronger over the weak. It’s a society which kills, a new form of tyranny which “deifies” the market and whose dynamic is determined by egoism, financial speculation and corruption. This new invisible tyranny is the result of people who betray the true purpose of society and who are obsessed with the power of “money”.
An interesting reflection about the destructive power embedded in the greed for “money” was given in the Good Friday Homily (April 18th )by the pontifical household preacher Father Cantalamessa . He reflected about the figure of “Judas Ischariot” who at one point became a traitor, by selling Christ for 30 silver coins to the high priests. His betrayal, as Cantalamessa put it, was one of the “darkest dramas of human freedom” and it is still continuing up to today.
Cantalamessa spoke about the incredible power which money exerts over the human hearts:
“Mammon, money, is not just one idol among many: it is the idol par excellence, literally a molten god” (see Ex 34:17). According to Cantalamessa “mammon” is the anti-God because it creates an alternative spiritual universe and leads to a sinister inversion of all values. The love of money according to the scripture is the “root of all evil”. This is today reflected in the power of the drug enterprises, the mafia, political corruption the manufacturing and sales of weapons and the financial crisis that the world has gone through and is still going through—all due in large part to the “cursed hunger for Gold”. What Judas did – who at the end repented and hung himself is a principle which continues throughout history up to this day.
However even in the darkest hours of mankind God has shown mercy.
The meaning of the Canonization John XXIII and John Paul II
In an unprecedented historical event on April 27 in Rome Pope Francis canonized in the presence of former Pope Benedict XVI, the former Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.
Saint John XXXIII and Saint John Paul II, as the Pope underlined, were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. “They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother, because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.”
Saint John XXIII who in October 1962 convened the Vatican Council was qualified as the Pope of “openness to the Holy Spirit” – being for the Church a pastor, servant and leader,
while Saint John Paul II “was the pope of the family”.
Warnings on Cuba Crisis and the Gulf War
Both Saint John XXIII (1881-1963) – formerly called Angelo Roncalli – as well as Saint John Paul II – Karol Woytyla – were born and raised in extremely modest and poor conditions. The first was born as son of a peasant in the small northern Italian town Bergamo, the latter as son of a tailor and professional army officer in Wadowice near Cracow (Poland). Both were personalities who “revolutionized” the Church. John XXIII being a papal diplomat in the Balkans for many years as well as in Istanbul used his enormous experience gathered in the dialogue with the East as an intellectual who had an open mind for the “dialogue” with politically responsible from the East as well as representatives from different churches. His thinking was best expressed in his famous Encyclical “pacem in terris” which was issued 1963 in response to the Cuban missile crisis. In it he strongly emphasized that peace is in the world must be based on the respect for the “human dignity” and the fight for the “Common Good”.
He not only tried to give new impulses to the Church by convening the Vatican II Council in 1962. He had an open heart for the workers and was critical about the Curia, underlining that his ear felt insulted by the voices of those who keep complaining that the present is worse than the past. He kept saying that we must resist those “disaster”- prophets who in every major crisis keep on predicting catastrophe and the end of the world.
Saint John Paul II (1920-2005) personally lived through the Nazi occupation of Poland, after the Nazi invasion 1939. He lived through war, misery, terror and tyranny. Being a conscious anti- fascist he helped many Jews like the little eleven year old Jewish girl Edith Tzirer, who after having been released from Auschwitz 1945, was found by the young Karol Woytyla lying starving at the side of a road. Woytyla helped the girl – he gave her bread and water and carried her all the way to the station on his back. When Pope John Paul II visited in 2000 Jerusalem Yad Vashem, he met again Edith Tzirer. What was always deeply ingrained in John Paul II as it was in John XXIII was his love for Peace and Justice. When the first Gulf war was organized by the US in 1990- as a commentary in the German Daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently wrote the Pope “fought like a lion against this”. He called it an “irresponsible adventure “ and “meaningless massacring”. He was convinced that peace which is forced through by weapons will not solve problems but provoke a new spiral of violence. With his strict pacifism he stood alone at that time, totally “isolated” against the majority of western governments, against most of the Arab countries and bishop conferences of the 39 involved nations. But he personally didn’t care.