For his Christmas message this year, the progressive-leaning Pope Francis called for peace and dialogue amid an unprecedented global crisis. Once again, the global leader of the Catholic church took advantage of his platform to issue a clarion call to global leaders of all creeds, across all regions of the world.
Pope Francis, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina who initiated the World Meeting of Popular Movements, has made headlines frequently for directly calling out powers that have been previously unchecked by the Vatican, such as corporations, industries, powerful nations, and the media.
In his address he highlighted: “‘what would our world be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together?’” This recognition, he says, has become only more clear in times of pandemic and that “there is the risk of avoiding dialogue, the risk that this complex crisis will lead to taking shortcuts rather than setting out on the longer paths of dialogue.”
The Pope, himself from the Global South, focused an important part of his message on a plea to end violence in the Middle East/West Asia region, notably Yemen, where a conflict perpetuated by Saudi Arabia has led to famine and war crimes. Saudi Arabia and the US, which provides Saudi Arabia with weaponry, have ensured that the conflict is labeled as a “civil war” in the media rather than a war between Yemen and outside forces. Pope Francis confronted the media when he said, “Let us listen to the cry of children arising from Yemen, where an enormous tragedy, overlooked by everyone, has silently gone on for years, causing deaths every day.”
Pope Francis went on to stress that medical care and “vaccines in particular” be made available to all. He has previously echoed the demands of an international movement and called on pharmaceutical corporations to lift the patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Corporations such as Pfizer have continuously chosen to maintain patents, which will ensure record profits but reinforce vaccine apartheid, or the concentration of available vaccines in the Global North.
Throughout his message, Pope Francis centered often overlooked topics such as the experience of migrants and refugees, violence against women, and environmental justice. He entreated, “make us attentive to our common home, which is suffering from the carelessness with which we so often treat it. Inspire political leaders to reach effective agreements, so that future generations can live in an environment respectful of life.”
When he became pope,Francis broke with Vatican tradition when he reconciled with several liberation theologians who had been previously cast out by the Vatican for their ideas. In 2018, the pope canonized Oscar Romero, a liberation theologian who was assassinated by the US-backed military dictatorship in El Salvador.