FEATURED IMAGE: Vatican News
– Carlos M. Frota
A close aide to Pope Francis has drawn the ire of Italy’s anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini by climbing down a manhole to restore electricity to hundreds of homeless people living in an occupied building.
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, 55, whose job is to distribute the pope’s charity funds, went to the disused state-owned building near a Rome cathedral on Saturday night and broke a police seal to reconnect electrical circuit breakers.
To some, he was a hero of sorts by Monday morning as the news went viral. Rome’s left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper ran a banner headline calling him “The Pope’s Robin Hood” and praising him for doing the right thing under the circumstances.
“What can I say? It was a particularly desperate situation. I repeat: I assume all the responsibility. If a fine arrives, I’ll pay it,” Krajewski said in an interview in Corriere della Sera newspaper on Monday.
The building has been occupied since 2013 by some migrants and Italians who had lost their homes. It houses some 450 people, including about 100 children.
It had been without power since May 6 because some 300,000 euro in electricity bills had not been paid.
The minister was right but…
“Defending illegality is never a good sign,” Salvini, who has often clashed with the pope on migration and other social issues, told reporters on Monday.
“There are many Italians and even legal immigrants who pay their bills, even if with difficulty. People can do what they please but as interior minister, I guarantee the rules.”
Krajewski, who rides around Rome on a bicycle, said he would pay the building’s electricity bills from now on but that for him, the issue went beyond money.
“There are children there. The first thing to ask is ‘Why are they there? What is the reason? How is it possible that families are in such a situation?” he told Corriere.
Krajewski, a Pole, was already a minor celebrity in Rome. Since the pope named him to the Vatican charity job in 2013, he became known for dressing down into simple layman’s clothes at night and bringing food to the city’s homeless in a white van.
He was also responsible for opening shelters near the Vatican were the homeless can wash, get haircuts, and receive medical care.
A different kind of economy
Because of this situation and others, the Pope sent a letter to Young Economists and Entrepreneurs Worldwide who have been invited to participate in an event scheduled for March 2020.
The event is a conference to be held in Assisi from 26 to 28 March 2020 entitled Economy of Francis.
“I am writing to invite you take part in an initiative very close to my heart,” the Pope said. The event, he says, will allow him to meet young economists who are interested in “a different kind of economy: one that brings life not death, one that is inclusive and not exclusive, humane and not dehumanizing, one that cares for the environment and does not despoil it.”
Expressing his belief that there is a need to “re-animate” global economy, the Pope says Assisi, a city that symbolizes a humanism of fraternity, is the right place.
“Saint John Paul II chose Assisi as the icon of a culture of peace. For me, it is also a fitting place to inspire a new economy,” he writes.
The Pope goes on to note that the life and vision of St Francis are so timely they can “give hope to our future and benefit not only the poorest of the poor, but our entire human family.”
Protection of the planet and social justice
He says that as emphasized in his encyclical Laudato Sì’, protection of the planet and social justice are profoundly interconnected and solutions must be found to the structural problems of the economy.
“We need to correct models of growth incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment, openness to life, concern for the family, social equality, the dignity of workers and the rights of future generations,” he writes.
The appeal Saint Francis received from the Crucifix was to go and “repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.” Pope Francis continues that “the environment … urgently demands a sound economy and a sustainable development that can heal its wounds and assure us of a worthy future.”
The Pope makes it clear that his message is addressed above all to young people who “can hear in [their] hearts the ever more anguished plea of the earth and its poor, who cry out for help and for responsibility, for people who will respond and not turn away.”
Young people, he continues, are the protagonists of necessary change: “Your universities, your businesses and your organizations are workshops of hope for creating new ways of understanding the economy and progress, for combating the culture of waste, for giving voice to those who have none and for proposing new styles of life. Only when our economic and social system no longer produces even a single victim, a single person cast aside, will we be able to celebrate the feast of universal fraternity.”
In his letter Francis also underscores the need for a communion of intentions that goes beyond “differences of creed and nationality” and is inspired by “an ideal of fraternity attentive above all to the poor and excluded”.
Francis of Assisi, the Pope concludes, “offers us an ideal and, in some sense, a programme. For me, who took his name, he is a constant source of inspiration. With you, and through you, I will appeal to some of our best economists and entrepreneurs who are already working on the global level to create an economy consistent with these ideals. I am confident that they will respond. And I am confident above all in you young people, who are capable of dreaming and who are prepared to build, with the help of God, a more just and beautiful world”.
Not only a new economy …
Also a new spirit to decide politically … The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has told his country’s parliament, in Juba, that he was shocked and shaken when the Pope kissed his feet during a Vatican special retreat for South Sudanese leaders, in April.
Pope Francis also kissed the feet of four of South Sudan’s previously warring political leaders.
Too much! – commented one of my friends on Francis symbolic gesture.
I didn’t reply.It wasn’t necessary. The President of South Sudan trembled. The message had reached its destination.