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Editorial: Strong words from the pulpit

Three weeks after Gozo Bishop Anton Teuma denounced bloodsuckers who get paid for work they do not do, Archbishop Charles Scicluna spoke of another “scandalous” situation.

“The fact that an increasingly large number of people are sleeping on our streets and that hundreds of our brethren have become dependent on soup kitchens for their nourishment is scandalous. We must never accept these situations as normal,” he told the congregation at the Independence Day solemn Mass.

Along the centuries, the Catholic Church has been a very significant contributor in the social and educational fields. Its role today may have changed, its influence wanes and its voice – once so strong and firm – often stifled by the ubiquitous social media commentary. Yet, it still has a role to play. Indeed, Pope Francis speaks of the Church as a “field hospital” that worries more about “those who suffer than with defending its own interests”.

He longs for the rediscovery of what a true village is: “a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need, in the coexistence of generations and in the concern to respect the Creation that surrounds us.”

The stand taken by the archbishop and the Gozo bishop are in line with the pontiff’s thoughts.

It perpetuates the ultimate aim of putting the Church’s social doctrine into practice.

There simply has to be a voice of conscience as politicians become increasingly interested in statistics, rhetoric and self-aggrandisement rather than truly putting citizens and the environment, nature, at the very centre of all their actions and decisions.

The archbishop hit the nail right on the head when he remarked: “In a wealthy society like ours… we need to ask why there is poverty around us and why it is increasing.”

He answered that question himself: “It is evident that there are systemic issues in our economy and politics that contribute to this plight. An economic system that does not work in favour of everyone, that destroys the environment and that results in a diminished quality of life, requires restructuring, transformation, and renewal.”

It is an assessment that can hardly be faulted.

When speaking about the global injustices that prevail, insisting the response needs to be more than mere condemnation, the pope referred to “an economic system that continues to discard lives in the name of the god of money, fostering destructive attitudes towards the resources of the earth and fuelling many forms of injustice”.

Such strong words from the pulpit need to persist, and even become stronger and more widespread, for everyone’s sake. If anything, that will also make the Church more relevant in today’s world.

As the archbishop rightly pointed out, the Church has a duty to raise such sensitive issues and to support and encourage a transition “from an economy that kills to an economy of life”.

Both bishops are to be publicly for making such strong statements. Their message, however, must continue to be conveyed and their resolve emulated, certainly by all members of the clergy and the faithful.

Of course, the Church must practise what it preaches and avoid embarrassing situations when its own property, or or that of any religious order, is sold to greedy speculators. That may be an exception, but one example is one too many and it falls upon the bishops to ensure that does not happen.

All Church members need to bear in mind what the archbishop said: taking the poor seriously means that considering how our decisions affect the most vulnerable becomes a top priority.