Pope Francis's first anniversary

Michael BURKE

Thursday, March 13, 2014    

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TODAY is one year since Pope Francis was elected pope. He certainly has become the 'darling' of the press and is quoted often. Each pope comes with his own style of doing things and this is often mistaken as meaning that all of the doctrine and rules will be changed. Pope Francis hails from Argentina and his style is close in culture to the people in the western hemisphere.

And because of his style he is quoted often and many believe that his stances on social justice are new to Roman Catholicism. But this has been the standard teaching of the Roman Catholic Church for a very long time. For example, in the early 1940s, there were many debates in the local press between Norman Manley and American priests working in Jamaica who were perhaps Americans first and Roman Catholics second. They objected to the elder Manley's socialist stance.

Norman Manley reminded them that what he was doing was in keeping with the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. This alone should tell you that the Roman Catholic position on social justice did not come yesterday. When Pope Leo XIII wrote more than 100 years ago that someone could not be a good Roman Catholic and good socialist at the same time, he was referring to scientific socialism or communism. At that time, the words socialism and communism were used interchangeably.

In a 1971 document entitled Justice in the world, the Roman Catholic Church explained that the word socialism had come to

have different meanings, and therefore a good Roman Catholic could be a good socialist. Further, Roman Catholics, being Christians, are supposed to work towards the empowerment of people. But the same Pope Leo XIII advocated a living wage. When Michael Manley announced a minimum wage for the first time in Jamaica in 1975, the concept came straight from Pope Leo XIII encyclical Rerum Novarum (New Ways, 1891).

When Michael Manley announced worker participation and worker share ownership, that concept was taken from Blessed Pope John XXIII (1958-63) and his encyclicals Mater et Magistra (Mother and teacher, 1961) and Pacem en Terris (Peace on Earth, 1963). The role of the Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica in building the first ever housing scheme in Homestead Bamboo, St Ann, and in establishing credit unions in the 1940s came out of the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Again, this is ample proof that the Roman Catholic position on social justice did not start just last year with the election of Pope Francis.

In the book commemorating 75 years of the People's National Party, Anglican priest Canon Ernle Gordon makes the very important point that, while Christian socialism did not come about by any political party, that variation of socialism was created by the Church.

The Roman Catholic position stems from the gospels, from Christ's teachings that we should love God and our neighbours, and from our understanding of Eucharist. If we consume the body and blood of Christ then having been nourished by Jesus Christ, we become one family.

And as family we should be loving and caring towards all. Of course, writing on Roman Catholicism in Jamaica, where only three per cent of the population adheres to this faith, brings out a response from anti-Roman Catholics, a distinctly Jamaican phenomenon. When I wrote three weeks ago that I was not convinced that Sir Alexander Bustamante was ever a Roman Catholic, some asked why I thought it necessary to write that. Many persons have asked me for decades if Bustamante was Roman Catholic, so I included it in my column and I will do it again.

And, while I am on this matter of feedback, last week I wrote about what Michael Manley did not live to see. Some critics said the column was pointless; that's your opinion. How many readers ever take into consideration those who include newspaper columns in their research? There are hundreds if not thousands of persons who ask me questions that suggest that they are confused about who lived in what era and as a service I helped them out last week.

In recent times, one young man asked me if it was true that 'Three-finger Jack' robbed George William Gordon. I told him that 'Three-finger Jack' died about 40 years before George William Gordon was born. Michael Manley and my father were at Jamaica College around the same time — my father being two forms ahead of him — but believe it or not youngsters have asked me if I went to school with Michael Manley (who would be 90 years old in December 2014 were he alive).

What is true is that Bruce Golding was head boy when I was in second form and Peter Phillips was a prefect when I was in third form. Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson and I were in the same class in first and second form, and Senator Lambert Brown attended JC at the same time. But there are all sorts of other questions, which is why I wrote the column last week.

One person opined that I did not have anything to write about so I chose that particular topic. The truth is that I rarely have writer's block these days. I had planned from the beginning of this year that since the 17th anniversary of Michael Manley's passing would be on a Thursday this year I would write about some of the things that he did not live to see.

Oh, yes, there was 'Stevo' who kept referring to me as 'Paul'. Paul is my older brother. I am not a member of any political party, he is. I am not the husband of the current mayor of Kingston, he is. He is not involved in the church, I am. And we certainly do not share the same views on everything. Incidentally, I also have three sisters.





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