Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus. Register file photo

Politicians take Pope’s message of peace to heart

  • January 7, 2019

In his annual World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis has some sharp words for politicians. A couple of Canadian political veterans believe the Pope’s warnings about modern politics are spot on.

There’s something very traditional about papal warnings for politicians, said Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus.

“The popes have a long history of mixing it up with politicians. (Pope) Benedict (XVI) raised similar concerns about corruption, and of course (St. Pope) John Paul (II). So this is a Church call. But I think at this time the language is really important. We politicians need to step up our game.”

Francis, who has made migrants and refugees a special cause, highlights the dangers bad politics create for migrants in his Dec. 8 letter intended to promote the Jan. 1 World Day of Peace in parishes and religious communities around the world.

“Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable,” Pope Francis writes.

He pulls no punches on the subject of political vices.

“Politics also has its share of vices,” he writes. “We think of corruption in its varied forms; the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’etat and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.”

The Pope’s warnings against xenophobia, corruption and demagoguery may well apply to Canadian politics, Angus said. He also warns that the fall 2019 federal election “may be the ugliest election that we’ve ever had.” 

“We are not immune by any stretch,” Angus said. “We’re not better than Americans or anyone else. That’s a really dangerous thing to think.

“We see a rise of politics where you play to your base and the hell with everyone else. That’s not going to lead us to a better world.”

Angus, who functions as ethics critic for the NDP in Ottawa, is worried by politicians who label people exercising their legal right to apply for asylum “illegal immigrants” and “queue jumpers.”

“In terms of the xenophobia that we will see in 2019, we’ve just got to call it out,” Angus said. “And we’ve got to call it out when we see it. It’s insidious.”

Former Progressive Conservative Senator Douglas Roche echoed that sentiment in an e-mail to The Catholic Register

“We will not achieve peace if we blame problems on migrants,” he wrote. “All political parties in Canada should adopt policies that welcome the dispossessed and help them to fit into Canadian life, which is thereby strengthened and enhanced.”

Roche said he welcomed the Pope’s “profound message” that politicians are essential to building human community.

“This fundamental purpose of politics is in danger of being lost today as people rebel against the failure of political systems to create a socially just order,” Roche said.

Angus has served on parliamentary committees looking at manipulation of social media for political purposes.

“When we look around the world, we’re seeing politics taking some really dark turns that we haven’t seen since the 1930s,” he said. “We’ve really woken up to the ability of dark operators to interfere with civil discourse because everything is done through Facebook.”

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