“This is an unusual conversation, Pope Francis said. As the recently elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church, I must admit that I had no idea I could be thinking about a unified Hispanic-Americas. What does it mean? It is my journey to bring together Roman Catholic people of the world. Africa and Asia are growing Catholic populations, also.”
“You must help us Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Okay, I mean Cardinal. No disrespect your eminence, but I died right before your ascension to Pope. And you did not support the oppressed during the Dirty Wars in Argentina. Some 30,000 people were killed by the military. Two Jesuit priests were kidnapped. You stood by…I accept the possibility that you are a changed man. As the President of Venezuela, I reduced the poverty rate from 48.6% in 2002 to 29.3% in 2001, Hugo Chavez said. Isn’t that an important part of Catholic teachings, reducing poverty? Can you imagine Pope Francis, reducing poverty by that amount throughout the world?”
“Mr. Chavez, you ran Venezuela by the government taking control, you call it nationalizing, of almost all aspects of your country. You eliminated freedom for centralized power, Pope Francis said.”
“But, isn’t that how the Catholic Church is run through centralized power, Chavez said?”
“Okay, both of you just calm down and let’s consider the importance of unity against outside invaders, Simone Bolivar said. A unified Hispanic-America is not a new vision. After we defeated the Spanish Empire, we met in what is today Panama in 1826 as the Union of South American Nations. I was thinking of a unified South America based on the model of the United States and a federalist form of government. It seemed that those original 13 colonies came together to force the British Empire out of the United States. I led the military and political strategy to push the Spanish Empire out of South America. I then began to understand how nationalism, while a protector against colonial empires, might be an obstacle to building a one country continent, Bolivar said.”
“Well, Simone, times are different. The enemies of unity are not always who they seem to be.
On the surface, we are still dealing with superpowers, Chavez said. But, behind the scenes we are challenging multi-national corporations and globalization. So, I nationalized the oil industry in Venezuela and this was a game-changer in reducing poverty in my country. My vision comes from the foundation of your thinking and an economic analysis of the real power brokers in the world, Chavez said.”
To explain this imaginary conversation, many of you know this already, I am neither Catholic nor Hispanic. But, I have been a student of Catholicism and have had the privilege to assist Hispanic organizations and communities in finding their voice. It is a moment in time for Hispanic thinking and action. Chavez and Bolivar have played a significant role in creating a foundation of progressive thinking and action. Despite Chavez being demonized by the United States, he crossed significant national boundaries as well as improving the quality of life for millions in poverty in his own country.
The selection of the first Pope from Latin America also adds to this moment even though Pope Francis is a theological conservative. He has a demonstrated commitment to the role of the Catholic Church in addressing poverty.
Pope Francis, Hugo Chavez and Simone Bolivar. Connected by history and present opportunity.