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Pope Francis plants a baobab tree with Madagascar's president Pope Francis plants a baobab tree with Madagascar's president  (Vatican Media) Editorial

Globalization and the risk of cultural uniformity

In his address to the authorities of Madagascar, Pope Francis gives a summary of his beliefs on political responsibility, poverty, care for creation, and the duty to respect the particular values of peoples.

By Andrea Tornielli

The speech delivered on the morning of 7 September 2019, in the presidential palace of Antananarivo before the political authorities of Madagascar, is one of the speeches that best summarizes the message of the Social Doctrine of the Church, enriched by the documents of the Magisterium of Pope Francis.

Walking through the streets of the capital, Antananarivo, the Pope was able to see with his own eyes the widespread poverty, the shacks, and the children bent to knead bricks. But he also saw the joy of the Malagasy people, testifying to the fact that it is not always possible to calculate statistics on the basis of Western consumption standards.

Pope Francis, in his speech, first of all recalled the task of politics, which has the mission of serving and protecting its fellow citizens, "in particular the most vulnerable" and the poorest, promoting a decent and just development, which is "integral", and not only economic.

He encouraged efforts in the fight against corruption and speculation, which "always create conditions of inhumane poverty". He then recalled the beauty and wealth of natural resources found on the largest island of the African continent, which has been threatened by poaching and deforestation.

The Pope reiterated that environmental crisis and social crisis are intrinsically linked – indeed they are the same, complex crisis – as the encyclical Laudato si' teaches. So he explained that there can be no real protection of the environment without social justice to guarantee the right to the common destination of earth’s goods: the poor must not and cannot pay the price of environmental protection policies.

Finally, Pope Francis dedicated a significant portion of his speech to globalization and the risk faced by countries like Madagascar regarding the aid provided by international organizations, which can “risk turning into a presumptive ‘universal culture’ that scorns, submerges and suppresses the cultural patrimony of individual peoples.”

He said it can end up homogenizing uniqueness, values, lifestyles, and cultures. Instead, we need processes that respect the priorities and lifestyles of peoples, making sure that it is the people themselves who become the architects of their own destinies.

07 September 2019, 15:18