In researching my recent column in The Hill, defending the food stamp program from cruel and barbaric cuts now passed by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, I wrote at length about Pope Francis, the pope who stands up for the poor. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with many religious leaders of many faiths and denominations, opposed the food stamp cuts which are opposed by President Obama and will almost certainly be defeated in the U.S. Senate.
In the course of writing my food stamp column, I read with great interest and admiration the views of Pope Francis, Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict in support of dramatically increasing the living standards of poor people and working people and reforming the American and world financial systems.
Pope Francis may well achieve a historic papacy for a number of reasons, high among them his championing of the poor in a nation and world with far too much poverty, social injustice and hunger.
What is striking to me is the depth of passion of Pope Francis and other popes for dramatic reform of the world financial system and dramatic efforts to redress the institutional social injustice and financial inequities that cause and worsen poverty in America and around the world.
Pope Francis has spoken against the "cult of money" and like Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict has criticized the great disparities of income, low wage labor that Pope Francis calls a form of slavery, and systemic financial injustices in great need of dramatic reform.
During the financial crisis Pope Benedict directly called for increasing government regulation of finance, and directly called for a financial transaction tax levied on large banks. Pope Francis is advancing a profound legacy of earlier popes in championing dramatic personal, cultural, financial and systemic changes that would lift the lot of workers and the poor.
There is the possibility of a new and great alliance between the secular financial reformers of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the great religious leaders, including Pope Francis among others, who champion a better life for the poor, better conditions for workers, increased equality of income, and institutional financial reforms that are essential for the real change the American and world economies urgently need.
Nothing would be better for the world than the active revival of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the reaching out to Pope Francis and other enlightened religious leaders who believe in loving and helping the poor, and changing and reforming the American and global financial systems on behalf of those OWS brilliantly called the 99% who have a friend in Pope Francis.
I urge a dialogue among other friends and supporters of OWS, to consider asking for a meeting with Pope Francis and injecting new momentum into what I believe is one of the most important movements of our generation.