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Read Pope Francis's speech to the Popular Movements in Bolivia

Good afternoon!

Several months ago, we met in Rome, and I remember that first meeting. In the meantime I

have kept you in my thoughts and prayers. I am happy to see you again, here, as you discuss the

best ways to overcome the grave situations of injustice experienced by the excluded throughout our

world. Thank you, President Evo Morales, for your efforts to make this meeting possible.

During our first meeting in Rome, I sensed something very beautiful: fraternity,

determination, commitment, a thirst for justice. Today, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, I sense it once

again. I thank you for that. I also know, from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace headed

by Cardinal Turkson, that many people in the Church feel very close to the popular movements.

That makes me very happy! I am pleased to see the Church opening her doors to all of you,

embracing you, accompanying you and establishing in each diocese, in every justice and peace

commission, a genuine, ongoing and serious cooperation with popular movements. I ask everyone,

bishops, priests and laity, as well as the social organizations of the urban and rural peripheries, to

deepen this encounter.

Today God has granted that we meet again. The Bible tells us that God hears the cry of his

people, and I wish to join my voice to yours in calling for land, lodging and labor for all our

brothers and sisters. I said it and I repeat it: these are sacred rights. It is important, it is well worth

fighting for them. May the cry of the excluded be heard in Latin America and throughout the


1. Let us begin by acknowledging that change is needed. Here I would clarify, lest there be

any misunderstanding, that I am speaking about problems common to all Latin Americans and,

more generally, to humanity as a whole. They are global problems which today no one state can

resolve on its own. With this clarification, I now propose that we ask the following questions:

Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers

without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons

whose dignity is not respected?

Do we realize that something is wrong where so many senseless wars are being fought and

acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep? Do we realize something is

wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat?

So letâ??s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change.

In your letters and in our meetings, you have mentioned the many forms of exclusion and

injustice which you experience in the workplace, in neighborhoods and throughout the land. They

are many and diverse, just as many and diverse are the ways in which you confront them. Yet there

is an invisible thread joining every one of those forms of exclusion: can we recognize it? These are

not isolated issues. I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system

which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any

price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?

If such is the case, I would insist, let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change,

structural change. This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find

it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable â?¦ The earth itself â?? our

sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say â?? also finds it intolerable.

We want change in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a

change which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to

local problems. The globalization of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root

among the poor, must replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference!

Today I wish to reflect with you on the change we want and need. You know that recently I

wrote about the problems of climate change. But now I would like to speak of change in another

sense. Positive change, a change which is good for us, a change â?? we can say â?? which is

redemptive. Because we need it. I know that you are looking for change, and not just you alone: in

my different meetings, in my different travels, I have sensed an expectation, a longing, a yearning

for change, in people throughout the world. Even within that ever smaller minority which believes

that the present system is beneficial, there is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction and even

despondency. Many people are hoping for a change capable of releasing them from the bondage of

individualism and the despondency it spawns.

Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another

apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what

the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The

earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain,

death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called "the dung of the devil�.

An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital

becomes an idol and guides peopleâ??s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire

socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys

human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our

common home.

I do not need to go on describing the evil effects of this subtle dictatorship: you are well

aware of them. Nor is it enough to point to the structural causes of todayâ??s social and

environmental crisis. We are suffering from an excess of diagnosis, which at times leads us to

multiply words and to revel in pessimism and negativity. Looking at the daily news we think that

there is nothing to be done, except to take care of ourselves and the little circle of our family and


What can I do, as collector of paper, old clothes or used metal, a recycler, about all these

problems if I barely make enough money to put food on the table? What can I do as a craftsman, a

street vendor, a trucker, a downtrodden worker, if I donâ??t even enjoy workersâ?? rights? What can I

do, a farmwife, a native woman, a fisher who can hardly fight the domination of the big

corporations? What can I do from my little home, my shanty, my hamlet, my settlement, when I

daily meet with discrimination and marginalization? What can be done by those students, those

young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with their hearts

full of hopes and dreams, but without any real solution for my problems? A lot! They can do a lot.

You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would

even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to 

organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three "Lâ??sâ?

(labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on

the national, regional and global levels. Donâ??t lose heart!

2. You are sowers of change. Here in Bolivia I have heard a phrase which I like: "process of

change�. Change seen not as something which will one day result from any one political decision

or change in social structure. We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are

not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in

bureaucratization, corruption and failure. That is why I like the image of a "process�, where the

drive to sow, to water seeds which others will see sprout, replaces the ambition to occupy every

available position of power and to see immediate results. Each of us is just one part of a complex

and differentiated whole, interacting in time: peoples who struggle to find meaning, a destiny, and

to live with dignity, to "live well�.

As members of popular movements, you carry out your work inspired by fraternal love,

which you show in opposing social injustice. When we look into the eyes of the suffering, when we

see the faces of the endangered campesino, the poor laborer, the downtrodden native, the homeless

family, the persecuted migrant, the unemployed young person, the exploited child, the mother who

lost her child in a shootout because the barrio was occupied by drugdealers, the father who lost his

daughter to enslavementâ?¦. when we think of all those names and faces, our hearts break because of

so much sorrow and pain. And we are deeply movedâ?¦. We are moved because "we have seen

and heard� not a cold statistic but the pain of a suffering humanity, our own pain, our own flesh.

This is something quite different than abstract theorizing or eloquent indignation. It moves us; it

makes us attentive to others in an effort to move forward together. That emotion which turns into

community action is not something which can be understood by reason alone: it has a surplus of

meaning which only peoples understand, and it gives a special feel to genuine popular movements.

Each day you are caught up in the storms of peopleâ??s lives. You have told me about their

causes, you have shared your own struggles with me, and I thank you for that. You, dear brothers

and sisters, often work on little things, in local situations, amid forms of injustice which you do not

simply accept but actively resist, standing up to an idolatrous system which excludes, debases and

kills. I have seen you work tirelessly for the soil and crops of campesinos, for their lands and

communities, for a more dignified local economy, for the urbanization of their homes and

settlements; you have helped them build their own homes and develop neighborhood

infrastructures. You have also promoted any number of community activities aimed at reaffirming

so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three "Lâ??sâ?: land, lodging and labor.

This rootedness in the barrio, the land, the office, the labor union, this ability to see

yourselves in the faces of others, this daily proximity to their share of troubles and their little acts of

heroism: this is what enables you to practice the commandment of love, not on the basis of ideas or

concepts, but rather on the basis of genuine interpersonal encounter. We do not love concepts or

ideas; we love people... Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of

children and the elderly, of peoples and communitiesâ?¦ of names and faces which fill our hearts.

From those seeds of hope patiently sown in the forgotten fringes of our planet, from those seedlings

of a tenderness which struggles to grow amid the shadows of exclusion, great trees will spring up,

great groves of hope to give oxygen to our world.

So I am pleased to see that you are working at close hand to care for those seedlings, but at

the same time, with a broader perspective, to protect the entire forest. Your work is carried out

against a horizon which, while concentrating on your own specific area, also aims to resolve at their

root the more general problems of poverty, inequality and exclusion.

I congratulate you on this. It is essential that, along with the defense of their legitimate

rights, peoples and their social organizations be able to construct a humane alternative to a

globalization which excludes. You are sowers of change. May God grant you the courage, joy, 

perseverance and passion to continue sowing. Be assured that sooner or later we will see its fruits.

Of the leadership I ask this: be creative and never stop being rooted in local realities, since the

father of lies is able to usurp noble words, to promote intellectual fads and to adopt ideological

stances. But if you build on solid foundations, on real needs and on the lived experience of your

brothers and sisters, of campesinos and natives, of excluded workers and marginalized families, you

will surely be on the right path.

The Church cannot and must not remain aloof from this process in her proclamation of the

Gospel. Many priests and pastoral workers carry out an enormous work of accompanying and

promoting the excluded throughout the world, alongside cooperatives, favouring businesses,

providing housing, working generously in the fields of health, sports and education. I am convinced

that respectful cooperation with the popular movements can revitalize these efforts and strengthen

processes of change.

Let us always have at heart the Virgin Mary, a humble girl from small people lost on the

fringes of a great empire, a homeless mother who could turn a stable for beasts into a home for

Jesus with just a few swaddling clothes and much tenderness. Mary is a sign of hope for peoples

suffering the birth pangs of justice. I pray that Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of Bolivia,

will allow this meeting of ours to be a leaven of change.

3. Lastly, I would like us all to consider some important tasks for the present historical

moment, since we desire a positive change for the benefit of all our brothers and sisters. We know

this. We desire change enriched by the collaboration of governments, popular movements and other

social forces. This too we know. But it is not so easy to define the content of change â?? in other

words, a social program which can embody this project of fraternity and justice which we are

seeking. So donâ??t expect a recipe from this Pope. Neither the Pope nor the Church have a

monopoly on the interpretation of social reality or the proposal of solutions to contemporary issues.

I dare say that no recipe exists. History is made by each generation as it follows in the footsteps of

those preceding it, as it seeks its own path and respects the values which God has placed in the

human heart.

I would like, all the same, to propose three great tasks which demand a decisive and shared

contribution from popular movements:

3.1 The first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples. Human beings and nature

must not be at the service of money. Let us say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality,

where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That

economy destroys Mother Earth.

The economy should not be a mechanism for accumulating goods, but rather the proper

administration of our common home. This entails a commitment to care for that home and to the

fitting distribution of its goods among all. It is not only about ensuring a supply of food or "decent

sustenanceâ?. Nor, although this is already a great step forward, is it to guarantee the three "Lâ??sâ? of

land, lodging and labor for which you are working. A truly communitarian economy, one might say

an economy of Christian inspiration, must ensure peoplesâ?? dignity and their "general, temporal

welfare and prosperityâ?.1 This includes the three "Lâ??sâ?, but also access to education, health care,

new technologies, artistic and cultural manifestations, communications, sports and recreation. A

just economy must create the conditions for everyone to be able to enjoy a childhood without want,

to develop their talents when young, to work with full rights during their active years and to enjoy a

dignified retirement as they grow older. It is an economy where human beings, in harmony with

nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and

needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life. You, and other peoples as well, sum

up this desire in a simple and beautiful expression: "to live well�.

Such an economy is not only desirable and necessary, but also possible. It is no utopia or

chimera. It is an extremely realistic prospect. We can achieve it. The available resources in our

world, the fruit of the intergenerational labors of peoples and the gifts of creation, more than suffice

for the integral development of "each man and the whole man�.2 The problem is of another kind.

There exists a system with different aims. A system which, while irresponsibly accelerating the

pace of production, while using industrial and agricultural methods which damage Mother Earth in

the name of "productivity�, continues to deny many millions of our brothers and sisters their most

elementary economic, social and cultural rights. This system runs counter to the plan of Jesus.

Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere

philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a

commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right. The universal

destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Churchâ??s social teaching. It is a reality

prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve

the needs of peoples. And those needs are not restricted to consumption. It is not enough to let a

few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself. Welfare programs

geared to certain emergencies can only be considered temporary responses. They will never be able

to replace true inclusion, an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and

solidary work.

Along this path, popular movements play an essential role, not only by making demands and

lodging protests, but even more basically by being creative. You are social poets: creators of work,

builders of housing, producers of food, above all for people left behind by the world market.

I have seen at first hand a variety of experiences where workers united in cooperatives and

other forms of community organization were able to create work where there were only crumbs of

an idolatrous economy. Recuperated businesses, local fairs and cooperatives of paper collectors are

examples of that popular economy which is born of exclusion and which, slowly, patiently and

resolutely adopts solidary forms which dignify it. How different this is than the situation which

results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!

Governments which make it their responsibility to put the economy at the service of peoples

must promote the strengthening, improvement, coordination and expansion of these forms of

popular economy and communitarian production. This entails bettering the processes of work,

providing adequate infrastructures and guaranteeing workers their full rights in this alternative

sector. When the state and social organizations join in working for the three "Lâ??sâ?, the principles of

solidarity and subsidiarity come into play; and these allow the common good to be achieved in a

full and participatory democracy.

3.2. The second task is to unite our peoples on the path of peace and justice.

The worldâ??s peoples want to be artisans of their own destiny. They want to advance

peacefully towards justice. They do not want forms of tutelage or interference by which those with

greater power subordinate those with less. They want their culture, their language, their social

processes and their religious traditions to be respected. No actual or established power has the right

to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of

new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice. For "peace

is founded not only on respect for human rights but also on respect for the rights of peoples, in

particular the right to independence�.3

The peoples of Latin America fought to gain their political independence and for almost two

centuries their history has been dramatic and filled with contradictions, as they have striven to

achieve full independence.

In recent years, after any number of misunderstandings, many Latin American countries

have seen the growth of fraternity between their peoples. The governments of the region have

pooled forces in order to ensure respect for the sovereignty of their own countries and the entire 

region, which our forebears so beautifully called the "greater country�. I ask you, my brothers and

sisters of the popular movements, to foster and increase this unity. It is necessary to maintain unity

in the face of every effort to divide, if the region is to grow in peace and justice.

Despite the progress made, there are factors which still threaten this equitable human

development and restrict the sovereignty of the countries of the "greater country� and other areas of

our planet. The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous

influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain "free trade� treaties, and the imposition

of measures of "austerity� which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor. The bishops of

Latin America denounce this with utter clarity in the Aparecida Document, stating that "financial

institutions and transnational companies are becoming stronger to the point that local economies are

subordinated, especially weakening the local states, which seem ever more powerless to carry out

development projects in the service of their populations�.4 At other times, under the noble guise of

battling corruption, the narcotics trade and terrorism â?? grave evils of our time which call for

coordinated international action â?? we see states being saddled with measures which have little to do

with the resolution of these problems and which not infrequently worsen matters.

Similarly, the monopolizing of the communications media, which would impose alienating

examples of consumerism and a certain cultural uniformity, is another one of the forms taken by the

new colonialism. It is ideological colonialism. As the African bishops have observed, poor

countries are often treated like "parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel�.5

It must be acknowledged that none of the grave problems of humanity can be resolved

without interaction between states and peoples at the international level. Every significant action

carried out in one part of the planet has universal, ecological, social and cultural repercussions.

Even crime and violence have become globalized. Consequently, no government can act

independently of a common responsibility. If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly

accept our interdependence. Interaction, however, is not the same as imposition; it is not the

subordination of some to serve the interests of others. Colonialism, both old and new, which

reduces poor countries to mere providers of raw material and cheap labor, engenders violence,

poverty, forced migrations and all the evils which go hand in hand with these, precisely because, by

placing the periphery at the service of the center, it denies those countries the right to an integral

development. That is inequality, and inequality generates a violence which no police, military, or

intelligence resources can control.

Let us say NO to forms of colonialism old and new. Let us say YES to the encounter

between peoples and cultures. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Here I wish to bring up an important issue. Some may rightly say, "When the Pope speaks

of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the Church�. I say this to you with regret: many

grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. My

predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul

II, I ask that the Church "kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of

her sons and daughters�.6 I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul

II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes

committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.

I also ask everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, to think of those many bishops, priests

and laity who preached and continue to preach the Good News of Jesus with courage and meekness,

respectfully and pacifically; who left behind them impressive works of human promotion and of

love, often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying their popular movements even to

the point of martyrdom. The Church, her sons and daughters, are part of the identity of the peoples

of Latin America. An identity which here, as in other countries, some powers are committed to

erasing, at times because our faith is revolutionary, because our faith challenges the tyranny of

mammon. Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many

of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. This too needs 

to be denounced: in this third world war, waged peacemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form

of genocide is taking place, and it must end.

To our brothers and sisters in the Latin American indigenous movement, allow me to

express my deep affection and appreciation of their efforts to bring peoples and cultures together in

a form of coexistence which I would call polyhedric, where each group preserves its own identity

by building together a plurality which does not threaten but rather reinforces unity. Your quest for

an interculturalism, which combines the defense of the rights of the native peoples with respect for

the territorial integrity of states, is for all of us a source of enrichment and encouragement.

3.3. The third task, perhaps the most important facing us today, is to defend Mother Earth.

Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in

defending it is a grave sin. We see with growing disappointment how one international summit

after another takes place without any significant result. There exists a clear, definite and pressing

ethical imperative to implement what has not yet been done. We cannot allow certain interests â??

interests which are global but not universal â?? to take over, to dominate states and international

organizations, and to continue destroying creation. People and their movements are called to cry

out, to mobilize and to demand â?? peacefully, but firmly â?? that appropriate and urgently-needed

measures be taken. I ask you, in the name of God, to defend Mother Earth. I have duly addressed

this issue in my Encyclical Letter Laudato Siâ??.

4. In conclusion, I would like to repeat: the future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands

of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in

their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this

process of change. I am with you. Let us together say from the heart: no family without lodging,

no rural worker without land, no laborer without rights, no people without sovereignty, no

individual without dignity, no child without childhood, no young person without a future, no elderly

person without a venerable old age. Keep up your struggle and, please, take great care of Mother

Earth. I pray for you and with you, and I ask God our Father to accompany you and to bless you, to

fill you with his love and defend you on your way by granting you in abundance that strength which

keeps us on our feet: that strength is hope, the hope which does not disappoint. Thank you and I

ask you, please, to pray for me.


1 JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra (15 May 1961), 3: AAS 53 (1961), 402. 

2 PAUL VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 14: AAS 59 (1967), 264. 

3 PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 157. 


2007), 66.

5 JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (14 September 1995), 52: AAS 88 (1996), 32-22;

ID., Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 22: AAS 80 (1988), 539. 

6 Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 Incarnationis Mysterium (29 November 1998),11: AAS 91

(1999), 139-141.