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Reflection from the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network for England and Wales and Scotland

The monthly intentions of the Holy Father, offered to the people of God through the channel of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, name realities about our world that need prayerful reflection. These are challenges that face humanity and the church’s mission.

We pray about these concerns, not to make them go away, but to open our own hearts to them. In this way, we learn what we are called to do about them. These matters are not always easy, such as this month’s, in which we’re invited to pray with the Pope ‘that those in charge of finance will work with governments to regulate the financial sphere and protect citizens from its danger’.

Finance and the Common Good

Vast sums of money are electronically moved around the world each minute, each second of every day. The temptations towards greed are obvious and are often indulged. The system is full of opportunities for self-enrichment, some perfectly legal, some criminal. Lest we slip into selfishness, we need always to remember that human solidarity and concern for the common good are core principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

In May, the Pope stays with the common good theme; he wants to highlight the pressing need for regulation in the world of finance. Left uncontrolled, it will cause some to suffer as others grow rich. Those already poor are always the first to suffer.

Confronting Power

It is likely that most of us, hearing this intention, wonder how we could ever influence the world’s financial decision-makers. We probably feel powerless, if not through lack of influence, then through lack of knowledge of how these systems work. It is a world that feels a million kilometres away, run by a small number of people who hold all the levers of power. Yet, in this Easter season and Pentecost month, we must try to be open to where the Spirit of God might be at work, drawing our attention, nudging our hearts.

Therein lies the beginning of a response to this month’s prayer intention, although we might not see it at first. The intention asks for regulation of financial operations for one specific purpose: to protect citizens from the dangers of an unregulated system. When we see this, we will begin to understand that this is really a matter of justice. Unregulated financial systems can put people, especially those least able to protect themselves, in danger. Followers of the Risen Christ engage in struggles for justice precisely because of our irreducible human dignity, which is the unchangeable basis of all our social thought and teaching. This intention, and the entire mission of Christ’s followers, is rooted in concern for the poor.

The scale of the problem

In an article for the May edition of the Sacred Heart Messenger (contact details below), Fr Peter McVerry, the Jesuit advocate for social justice, explores the size, scale and effect of large-scale tax avoidance and evasion. Far from protecting people from danger, the global financial system is growing the wealth of a few people who are already rich.

Fr Peter McVerry, who has long worked with and campaigned for Dublin’s homeless people, notes:

‘It is estimated that to provide everyone in the world with healthcare would cost between €100 and €250 billion a year; to feed the world would cost €265 billion a year and to educate every child in the world would cost €26 billion a year, a fraction of the money hidden away in offshore accounts. These secretive and often illegal money transfers, in pursuit of maximising profits or wealth, cost the lives of millions of people from hunger and lack of healthcare, and destroy the future of many children through depriving them of education.’

McVerry points out that the total amount held in secret offshore accounts worldwide is commonly accepted to be around €7,500 billion; they cost governments up to €600 billion of lost revenue each year. Of this shortfall, at least €200 billion, which could have gone to healthcare and education, is denied to low-income countries.

For Pope Francis, there is little doubt about our mission. ‘If the Church disowns the poor, she ceases to be the Church of Jesus; she falls back on the old temptation to become a moral or intellectual elite.’

Three proposals for the month

  1. Research the figures that Fr Peter McVerry provided and discover what financial or fiscal practices aren’t regulated that should be, so that there would be justice and protection from danger for all. Can you or your parish explore this and make your views known to the politicians?
  2. This is the Holy Spirit’s month. Find time to make a conscious and deliberate prayer to the Spirit of light to shine that light on the realities of your own part of the world. Make that explicit prayer (perhaps using the Meditation Moment below) at least once in the month. What do you notice?
  3. May is also Mary’s month and we mark it in various ways in the Church. When honouring her in our Marian prayers, such as the Rosary, this month, make a point of remembering her own Magnificat prayer that shows how she, too, cares about any injustice that endangers the poor. ‘He casts the mighty from their thrones … He raises the lowly.’

Meditation Moment

Halfway through April, Pope Francis took to social media to remind us that, ‘In the midst of the contradictions and perplexities we must confront each day, the din of so many words and opinions, there is the quiet voice of the Risen Lord who keeps saying to us: “Peace be with you!”’ Let this thought draw us into a meditation moment.

As St Ignatius insists, we should begin every time of prayer by recognising that God’s gaze is already on us, that the Trinity looks longingly on us and on our world. That gaze is full of compassion for us and all of creation. Remembering that true prayer is never an escape from the world, but is entering the world ever more deeply, we can bring to mind the Pope’s intention for the month. Let our thoughts about this, together with our feelings, emerge into God’s gaze; speak to the Trinity whatever seems important to say. Note carefully when you become aware of the peace that the Risen Christ wants to offer you. Thank the Spirit for whatever is given.

Prayer of Offering

With Apostles of Prayer everywhere, we can make our Morning Offering; perhaps in May with this Prayer of Pope Francis:

May the Lord help all the little ones and the poor of our world to continue to believe and trust that the Kingdom of God is at hand, in our midst, and is ‘justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17). May He sustain all those who, day by day, strive to combat evil with good, with words and deeds of fraternity, respect, encounter and solidarity. We ask all this in the power of the crucified and risen Lord. Amen.


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