Pope Francis described racism as a ‘virus’ in an 86-page encyclical on the theme of human fraternity.
The encyclical, released on Sunday and circulated by the pope to Catholic churches worldwide, covers a number of topics including immigration, the rich-poor gap, economic and social injustices, healthcare imbalances and the political polarisation in a number of countries.
Encyclicals are the most authoritative form of papal writing, though they are not infallible.
In his writing, the pope addressed the coronavirus outbreak and stressed that the worst response to the passing of the outbreak would be to ‘plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egoistic self-preservation.’
Francis did not name any countries or people in particular in the encyclical, but condemned politicians who ‘seek popularity by appealing to the basest and most selfish inclinations’ or who enact policies of ‘hatred and fear towards other nations’.
Among the issues he addressed was that of racism; a topic which has been particularly under the microscope this year following the death of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests.
Racism is a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.
Indeed, instances of injustice and racism are constant, and a resolve requires entire systems to be broken down and built back up in a way in which everyone is treated as absolute equals.
Francis noted that digital culture ‘encourages remarkable hostility, insults, abuse, defamation and verbal violence destructive of others’, adding: ‘Things that until a few years ago could not be said by anyone without risking the loss of universal respect can now be said with impunity, and in the crudest terms, even by some political figures.’
He also slammed so-called ‘trickle-down’ economics; a theory favoured by conservatives which suggests that tax breaks and other incentives for big business and the wealthy eventually will benefit the rest of society through investment and job creation, Reuters reports.
Francis said the coronavirus outbreak was the latest crisis to prove that the ‘trickle down’ system failed to produce the benefits its proponents claim, and stressed that the belief of early Christians, that ‘if one person lacks what is necessary to live with dignity, it is because another person is detaining it’, is still valid.
Titled ‘Fratelli tutti’ (‘Brothers, all’), the encyclical is the third written by Pope Francis and echoes some of the major themes of his social teaching.
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