Bruce Duncan, Online Catholics, Issue 22 (20 October 2004).

United Nations photoDespite his own frailty, Pope John Paul II has vehemently called attention to the dire economic plight of the poorest people in developing countries. In October 2003 he urged bishops to be champions of social justice and human rights. In astonishingly undiplomatic language, he declared:

‘The war of the powerful against the weak has, today more than ever before, created profound divisions between rich and poor. The poor are legion! Within an unjust economic system marked by significant structural inequities, the situation of the marginalized is daily becoming worse.

‘How can we keep silent when confronted by the enduring drama of hunger and extreme poverty, in an age where humanity, more than ever, has the capacity for a just sharing of resources?’ (#67).

He called for a globalisation based on the principles of social justice and the preferential option for the poor, and singled out the problem of impossible international debts. (#69).

John Paul has tried to highlight this message in hundreds of talks and documents during the last 25 years. But his depiction of the global struggle against hunger and poverty as a ‘war of the powerful against the weak’ is, as far as I can recall, unprecedented.

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Photo: United Nations – flickr CC

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