To me, it was just an off-the-cuff remark made by a man who was weary and unguarded after a long and at times very trying (weather-wise) visit to Sri Lanka and The Philippines. I think what is important here is to remember, among all the euphoria of the Papal visit is that first and foremost, Pope Francis is a man - a human being, and as such he will sometimes say things that are not always politically correct, indeed may be mistakes and not intended that way. We do have a tendency to lionize our leaders - to give them a pedestal that places them above us mere mortals. Even more so, the Pope - the leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics across the world. Many people firmly believe that the Pope is God's chosen messenger on earth, and as such they have a tendency to deify him and give him a persona that places him somewhere between Earth and Heaven.
The Pope is human, just like you and me. He pulls his pants on one leg at a time in the morning, just like we do and if we wanted to be vulgar, he has to visit the toilet as regularly as we do. If you want more proof of the Pope's humanity, you only need look at photographs of this man when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aries - when he was just plain Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio. If you "google" photos of this time in his life you will see he was often pictured as a tired looking, elderly cleric who had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Compare that to Pope Francis, as he is today and you will get some idea of what I'm trying to say. Now, he really does have the weight of the world on his shoulders and yet what we see now is a smiling, confident, grandfatherly like, elderly man who seems to have boundless energy, a real sense of fun and a never-ending compassion for the marginalized in our Society. Clearly, Pope Francis has changed the way he approaches his tasks as Pontiff, from his days as an Archbishop. He is still the same man, but he realizes that his role as the leader of the Universal Church requires something other than the piety, solemnity and gravity that he brought to his previous role.
My fervent hope is that these two issues will be continued to be addressed by whatever party or people's populate Malacanang after 2016. I personally believe the Aquino administration has made a real and concerted effort to start reforms in these area, although I am aware many consider otherwise. As I write this I am watching on television, in the background, the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry into alleged overpricing of the Makati Town Hall Building II. Despite what some are saying, and despite the drama and theatrics that these blood-letting sessions bring, they truly are necessary.
Here's the thing - of course this investigation is politically motivated, but that is IRRELEVANT. If there is corruption, I don't care how it is uncovered, or indeed why it was uncovered.
The man under investigation is planning to run for the Presidency of this Country in 2016 - the people deserve to know if he is corrupt or not and if he's not corrupt then surely he has nothing to fear. We must seek out and expose corruption wherever it exists and if this steps on a few toes or upsets a few people's sensibilities, then I say so be it!
We (all of the world), need to address the issues raised by Pope Francis - especially those of inequality and corruption. I read something absolutely horrifying this morning. According to Oxfam (a widely respected NGO), by next year 50% of the world's resources will be owned and controlled by just 1% of the world's population. Even more scarily Oxfam offer us their calculation that the bottom 80% of the population will own and control just 5.5% of the world's resources. I guess, using my very basic math's skills from High-School, that means the remaining 19% of the population (I assume this is the middle-class) own and control the balance of 44.5% of the world's resources.
All I ask is that you just contemplate those claims for a few minutes.
Doesn't that seem wrong?
How can it possibly be right or equitable that just 1% of humanity can control half the world's resources? How can it possibly be right that 80% of our fellow human beings can only own 5.5% of the world's resources. Inequality is what leads to almost every social ill we face across the planet; poverty, crime, rebellion and ultimately civil-anarchy.
It is wrong, as many try to claim, that social ills are caused by religion and religious conflict. Invariably religious conflict is created by fundamentalists who twist and warp their faiths to meet their own agendas. Why they manage to gain such traction is simple - they are preaching to the 80% of this world who only control 5.5% of the world's resources. All that huge mass of humanity is seeking is a way out of poverty or someone to blame for their situations - fundamentalists give them a perfect scapegoat and target for their despair and rage.
At an international level I think two things are required.
Firstly, the leaders of the developed world must accept that their nations, through firstly physical colonization and the accompanying systematic rape of the colonized country's resources and secondly through the process of economic colonization (or as some like to call it - globalization) they again have continued to contribute to the exploitation and raping of the developing world's resources for their own profits The international community must use the arms in its arsenal; such as The World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, The United Nations, The World Economic Forum and the many and varied social equality NGO's around the world to begin to address the inequality.
Whether this can successfully happen is open to debate, but what I am starting to see around the developed world is an understanding that they do not operate independently, that the nation states who "have" DO owe a duty to the nation states that "do not have". Whether this realization is driven to some extent by fear (of the "do not haves") or whether it is driven by a collective national conscience, I'm unsure, but all I can hope is that the work currently being done to address the global inequalities, as well as the work on climate change (which affects the poor far more greatly than the wealthy) continues to grow apace.
I guess most importantly we must ensure that come 2016 we elect a President and an administration that is committed to continuing, expanding on and completing the reforms begun by the Aquino administration. As voters you all owe a duty to your fellow Filipinos to ensure that we NEVER return to the days of patronage politics, cronyism and endemic corruption. If all the funds lost to corruption were instead channeled to the marginalized in our society, massive strides could be made in addressing this issue.
I was personally particularly moved by one of the lines of the song that was, I think written specifically for the Pope's visit. I may not have the lyrics dead right, but it went something like this: "Have you ever held the children's hands, when you gave them alms - have you ever bought them bread to eat". What that line said to me was it was not enough to just give a street kid or a beggar a few pesos and then to walk away, conscience salved. What it says to me is that we, who are lucky enough to, if not be one of the "haves" then at least be one of the "has some" have a duty not just to share what we have with those who are in the "have nots" group, but we actually have a duty to connect with them on a much deeper level.
So, what can we do? My challenge to all Filipinos who are comfortable in their lives is to move out of their "comfort zones" and become actively involved in making a difference in the lives of the "have nots". Get out from behind the walls of your gated communities and become involved in the lives of your fellow human beings - your fellow Filipinos. Maybe you could join an NGO (Preferably not a Janet Lim Napoles NGO) that works with the marginalized in our society and volunteer that most precious commodity that you have - your time. Pope Francis calls on us all to show mercy and compassion - let us heed his call in the most practical way possible.
Francis embodies the true character of the Jesuit Priest, one who is less concerned about his own comfort than he is about the comfort of his flock.
To all the priests, pastors, reverends, church leaders, and laity out there - follow the example of humility and generosity shown by Pope Francis.
Without a doubt that is the most important message Pope Francis brought to our shores and my fervent hope is that the "good feelings" and "good intentions" (The Francis Factor), that his visit gave us, will indeed last longer than the proverbial "two weeks".
Pope Francis brought us his humility, his humanity and his vision for the future - let us heed that and act today.
Again I say maraming, maraming salamat Po...Lolo Kiko we love you!
The end of the Papal Visit - I promise