By Tracey Primrose
April 12, 2020 — Today Pope Francis released an Easter Sunday letter to individuals working to help those at the margins, calling them an “invisible army fighting in the most dangerous trenches.” Noting that the impact of a global pandemic has been more acute for those without steady income and recognizing that “market solutions do not reach the peripheries, and State protection is hardly visible,” he suggests the time may be right for new thinking.
“This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”
In the letter, written to members of social movements, the pope calls those working for justice, “social poets because, from the forgotten peripheries where you live, you create admirable solutions for the most pressing problems afflicting the marginalized.”
“I think of all the people, especially women, who multiply loaves of bread in soup kitchens: two onions and a package of rice make up a delicious stew for hundreds of children. I think of the sick, I think of the elderly. They never appear in the news, nor do small farmers and their families who work hard to produce healthy food without destroying nature, without hoarding, without exploiting people’s needs. I want you to know that our Heavenly Father watches over you, values you, appreciates you, and supports you in your commitment.”
Recognizing that the ability to practice social distancing is a privilege not available to all, the pope says, “How difficult it is to stay at home for those who live in tiny, ramshackle dwellings, or for the homeless!”
Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, Provincial of Jesuits West, said, “Pope Francis, in this beautiful and heartfelt letter to social movements expresses how deeply he feels for those at the margins. Like Pope Francis, we grapple with how this pandemic exposes the inequalities prevalent in our society, most recently brought to light in how people of color suffer death from COVID-19 in a disproportionate way. We of Jesuits West rejoice at the pope’s message to roll up our sleeves, to be ‘social poets’ to imagine new ways forward, where all people will have a just wage and live with dignity, created as they are in the image and likeness of God.”
Saying that the world needs to “downshift, take stock and renew,” the pope cautions, “I hope that this time of danger will free us from operating on automatic pilot, shake our sleepy consciences and allow a humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money and places human life and dignity at the center.”