News Release

Why Pope Francis is “Reaching More People”


Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. on Sept. 22 and is scheduled to meet with President Obama and speak to Congress. In New York, he will speak at the United Nations and then visit Philadelphia. See

Director of the Office of the Americas, Bonpane served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala and has written five books including Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution.

Bonpane wrote a recently published reader about the Pope’s latest encyclical “Laudato Si” (On Care for our Common Home). Blase states: “It certainly shows some of the implications of Liberation Theology and the preferential option for the poor. And it’s very clear in the statement made ahead of time and in the encyclical itself that what he’s looking at is how we liberate the poor from the oppression in which they are living. And he blames part of it on a consumerist model, which he said is depleting resources to the detriment of the poor, and living simpler lives is called for. This is about our common home, this planet we live on.”

Bonpane said today: “Bishops of the U.S. have been very disappointing — they are very dependent on big donors and subservient to the state. If only they’d be as opposed to war as much as they’re obsessed with sex. So, a real question is how much impact Pope Francis can have given such hurdles within the institutional church.”

While some are claiming that what Pope Francis is doing is unique in the history of the Catholic Church, Bonpane notes: “Pope Francis’ encyclical is very much in accord with previous Papal Documents.” Bonpane notes that in the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII issued ‘Rerum Novarum,’ (Of Revolutionary Change), stating: “Some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class.” Forty years later Pope Pius XI issued “Quadragesimo Anno” (In the 40th Year) “celebrating the words of Leo XIII and demanding a living wage.” That encyclical states: “The economic dictatorship which has recently displaced free competition can still less perform, since it is a headstrong power and a violent energy that, to benefit people, needs to be strongly curbed and wisely ruled. … On the one hand, economic nationalism or even economic imperialism; on the other, a no less deadly and accursed internationalism of finance or international imperialism whose country is where profit is.”

Said Bonpane: “The great Pope John XXIII who called for the Second Vatican Council in 1962 issued ‘Pacem in Terris’ (Peace on Earth) an encyclical demanding an end to the war system.

“As religious people began entering the Latin American revolutions as rebels, Pope Paul VI issued ‘Populorum Progressio’ (The Development of Peoples), making the point that violent revolutions should be avoided because of the endangerment of the innocent — except in the case of long standing tyranny where the fundamental rights of the people are violated.

“And now with this encyclical on the environment [‘Laudato Si,’ (Praise Be … On Care for Our Common Home)] Pope Francis will reach more people than any previous Pope. Why? Because he has sanctified one of the elements of Liberation Theology, ‘the preferential option for the poor.’

“He is stressing the impact of climate change primarily on the poor of the earth. This is in no way to claim that the Pope approves everything in the rapidly developing Theology of Liberation. Surely he would differ with many of us who think the days of sectarianism, dogmatism and imperial style orthodoxy are defunct.”

See also, from the National Catholic Reporter: “Highlights from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, ‘Evangelii Gaudium‘ (The Joy of the Gospel),” which says, “The socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. … Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”