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Culture & Religion

POPE/ Sirico (Acton): The option for the poor is not necessarily an option for the state

Robert Sirico

martedì 19 marzo 2013

“It’s really possible to have ‘the preferential option for the poor’, without having a preferential option for the state”. This is the assertive closing of the interview with Father Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute (Michigan, U.S.). Acton Institute has a center in Italy too (Rome), and another one in the country from which the new Pope come from, Argentina. In these days, Sirico is in Italy to follow the Conclave.

Father Sirico, what is your opinion on this awkward moment for the Church and on the election of the new Pontiff?

He strikes me as the right pope for the right moment. He is obviously a man of deep humility and prayer, and in a society that is increasingly superficial, one can sense the depth of his soul.

In particular, what do you think of the approach of austerity an closeness to the people Pope Francis is proposing to the Church?

I think it is refreshing and authentic as well as welcome. Each new pope adds a new emphasis to a part of the Church's teaching that may require a renewed emphasis.

As it happened with Joseph Ratzinger, Cardinal Bergoglio too has been charged by some Italian media to have covered the Argentinean dictatorship. What do you think of this way of acting by the media, and is this usual in the US media as well?

It never takes very much to make any kind of wild accusation against someone. The thing is to prove it. And these irresponsible accusations reflect very poor on the authors and their publications. They have been repeatedly repudiated and proven false. In the US we do not have the same level of irresponsibility probably because our newspapers must compete in the market, unlike many Italian newspapers that are supported by the government or political parties. While there is often bias in mainstream American journalism, they have to use sources or there are seen to be unreliable by the consumers.

President Obama has sent a warm message to the first Pope coming from America, and he has defined him ““a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us,”. How is the new teaching of the Church of Pope Francis perceived in the United States?

This will be interesting to see, because while Obama very often speak in moving words and images, when it comes to understanding the causes of wealth creation, he has a very superficial understanding of business, which is the best institutional way in which we can help the poor to rise from poverty.

And what about Latin America? This continent is facing an increasing economic development, but what are the chances for a more ordered growth than the one the West had?

This depends on what one means by an “ordered growth”. There is a great temptation, given the history of many Latin America countries, to so 'order' their economies that the growth is stifled. Anticipating what consumers needs and organizing the facts of production to meet those needs is not an exact science, and requires both risk in the undertaking, but also a deep knowledge of the culture in which such enterprises operate to hope to become successful. One the other hand, if we mean by “order” the rule of law, this is, of course, essential to insure contacts economic progress.

Pope Bergoglio did not share the liberation theology and he came to condemn his Jesuit brothers who were attracted by it. What is your opinion on this?

It was a very brave thing that Pope Francis did at that time in Argentina, and all the more difficult because he has to confront his brother Jesuits who were attempting to politicize the gospel and service to the poor. It is hard to offer a correction to men you live and pray with, so this shows the clarity of the Holy Father's thinking on this point, namely that one can truly have “a preferential option for the poor” without having a preferential option for the state.

(Giuseppe Sabella)

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