Pope Francis: Latin America needs a new Catholic presence in politics

Pope Francis at the general audience in St Peters Square on March 14 2018 Credit Daniel Ibanez 2 CNA Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on March 14, 2018. | Daniel Ibanez / CNA.

Pope Francis called Monday for a new approach to politics in Latin America that incorporates the principles of Catholic social teaching.

"A new presence of Catholics in politics is necessary in Latin America," Pope Francis told the Pontifical Commission for Latin America's seminar participants March 4.

This not only implies "new faces in electoral campaigns, but new methods …  flexible alternatives with a clear Christian social identity," the pope continued.

"Engaging in politics inspired by the Gospel from the people in movement becomes a powerful way to clean up our fragile democracies," he said.

Pope Francis clarified that there is no "single form of political commitment for Catholics," no "Catholic party," and stated that "the same Christian faith can lead to different commitments."

The pope spoke with 26 young Catholic participants in a nine-day seminar on Church social doctrine and Latin American politics organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

He exhorted the delegation to defend themselves from "ideological colonization."

The pope pointed to the example of recently canonized Saint Oscar Romero. He said the saint saw "many lay people who wanted to change things, but who often went astray with false ideological answers." Romero helped them to "rediscover the reasons why it is worth doing politics, but from the Gospel, overcoming ideologies."

Pope Francis quoted Romero, stating, "To be a good politician you do not need to be a Christian, but the Christian involved in political activity has an obligation to confess his faith. And if a conflict between loyalty to their faith and loyalty to the organization arises in this field, the true Christian should prefer his faith and demonstrate that his struggle for justice is for the justice of the Kingdom of God, and not another justice."

He further quoted the saint, noting, "Not every Christian has a political vocation, nor is the political channel the only one that leads to a task of justice. There are also other ways of translating faith into a work of justice and the common good."

The pope commented that 2031 will mark 500-year anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which spread the faith throughout Mexico and across Latin America. Two years later, in 2033, the Church will celebrate the 2000-year anniversary of  humanity's redemption through Jesus' crucifixion.

"San Juan Diego, poor and excluded indigenous, was precisely the small and humble instrument that Our Lady of Guadalupe chose for a great mission that would give origin to the pluriform face of the great Latin American nation," Pope Francis said.

He continued, "We entrust ourselves to his intercession so that when the forces are lacking in the struggle for our people, let us remember that it is precisely in the weakness that the strength of God can do his best work."

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