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Home Op-Ed B.C. electors needed to hear the Pope’s TED Talk

B.C. electors needed to hear the Pope’s TED Talk

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Pontiff preaches golden rule to the world
by Paul Scratz

Photo Caption: Pope Francis was a surprise presenter in a video talk played April 25 for 1,800 people attending TED 2017, Vancouver. Paul Schratz writes the Pope stresses “the interconnectedness of the world” and our need to work together to care for it. ( via CNS )



Two years ago, Lower Mainland faith leaders invited Pope Francis to visit Vancouver to observe the deplorable conditions in the city’s Downtown Eastside. On April 25, the Holy Father appeared at the Vancouver Convention Centre by streaming video. You take what you can get.

The Pope beamed into the TED Talk with a session titled “Why the only future worth building includes everyone,” and the sheer novelty of the appearance received as much attention as his message, which in case you missed it was “love your neighbour as yourself.”

The Pope used the phrase “revolution of tenderness,” but it amounted to the same thing. Through tenderness, love becomes real, he said; we can use our eyes to see others and our ears to listen to “the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth.”

Tenderness means using our hands and heart to comfort those in need, he said, referencing the story of the Good Samaritan.

And so, this extraordinary Pope, with his remarkable skill at communicating in tangible ways, was able to get worldwide media coverage of the Great Commandment, the essence of the Christian faith.

The title of the TED conference was The Future You, and before he proposed his revolution of tenderness, Francis offered this gem: “To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.”

It is hope, he said, that starts the revolution of tenderness. “A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you.”

A lot of the news coverage of the Pope’s TED talk focused on a few lines at the end, about the need for the powerful to think about others. This led to headlines like Pope Francis Warns World Leaders Not to Get Drunk on Power, and stories suggesting the Pope was giving Donald Trump a dressing down.

The headline I preferred said the Pope gave “a Laudato Si’ TED Talk,” because he stressed the interconnectedness of the world and the importance of “solidarity being our default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.”

Contrary to narrative in much of the news coverage, the Pope’s talk was not about politicians, the greedy, and other people. In fact, he stated unequivocally that “the future of humankind is not exclusively in the power of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’”

The Pope was reminding us to consider the blind spots we each have, those areas and individuals that we ignore or give lip service to because of our discomfort or judgmental attitudes.

A blind spot for many of us is the Downtown Eastside, just steps away from the convention centre where the TED conference was taking place. We drive past and shake our heads at the poverty, the drugs, the mental illness, and the First Nations component that are endemic to the neighbourhood. Homeless Jesus has a home at Holy Rosary Cathedral, but thousands more wander the streets.

Archbishop Miller’s recent pastoral letter on the Lower Mainland overdose crisis made the important connection between addiction and mental illness, noting that we have to “see the face of Jesus in those who suffer” and identify with those afflicted by mental illness and addiction.

Since his letter was published in February, the overdose crisis has only worsened and it looks like we’re going to surpass last year’s record 922 illicit drug deaths in B.C. and possibly double the number of drug deaths in Vancouver.

As if that isn’t gloomy enough, the single best opportunity to do something about the crisis – the provincial election – has been squandered. The Archbishop used his pastoral letter to call for this topic to become an election issue.

Yet the drug/mental health crisis barely registered on the election seismograph. The party leaders only addressed the issue when asked about it.

Both the NDP and the Greens promised to create a ministry of mental health and addiction, while the Liberals promised to commit all future marijuana revenue to providing help for those addicted to opioids and other drugs. If that’s the case I can’t see much incentive for the province to curb marijuana use, but there’s the interconnected world Francis was talking about.

In a talk to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences last year, Pope Francis identified the scope of the problem. He saw the link between addiction and illness. He recognized how addicts had lost their freedom to drugs, which were “a new form of slavery.”

He also reminded attendees of addicts’ “dignity as children of God.”

“The neediest of our brothers, who seem to have nothing to give, hold a treasure for us: the face of God who speaks to us and challenges us.” They need treatment and rehabilitation, and they need love, said the Pope.

Just as he said in his TED talk, those suffering from addiction and mental illness need tenderness. They need us to use our hands and our hearts to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.

Because if we wait for government to act on this emergency, 2017 will be another record-setting year, and the next invitation for Pope Francis to visit the Downtown Eastside will be more urgent than ever.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 May 2017 08:15  

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