Skip to main content

Vatican Meeting Energizes US Grassroots Workers

Printer-friendly version
February 22, 2017

Nearly 700 delegates from around the United States spent four days in California’s Central Valley last weekend exploring the conditions faced by the poor and vulnerable in this nation.  The U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements was initiated by Pope Francis to enliven and encourage grassroots organizations to become “protagonists of change.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect for the Dicastery of Integral Human Development, recently formed by the Pope, welcomed the participants with a letter from Pope Francis.

“Sooner or later the moral blindness of indifference comes to light,” wrote the Pope.  “The wounds are there, they are a reality.  The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracy is real.”

Speaker after speaker detailed how the “economy of exclusion,” which the Pope targets as the main cause of oppression and a threat to human dignity, is experiences in today’s world.  Homelessness, underemployment, racism and other affronts to human dignity are common throughout the world. 

Bishop Robert McElroy, San Diego, told the crowd that social justice required all to see, judge and act. 

"President Trump said he was the candidate of disruption. Now we must all become disrupters.  We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our communities to deport the undocumented, to destroy our families.  We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies.  We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men and women as a source of threat rather than children of God. We must disrupt those who would take away healthcare, who would take food from our children.  But we can’t just be disrupters, we have to be rebuilders.  We have to rebuild a nation in which all of us are children of one God…We must rebuild a nation that pays $15 an hour and provides decent housing and work for all. If work is co-creation with God don’t we think it deserves at least $15 an hour?”

Panels throughout the four-day meeting examined land, labor and lodging – the themes designated by the World Meeting of Popular Movements.  For this Regional Meeting in the United States, participants added racism and migration as particularly important issues in the nation today.

The format featured presentations from organizing groups, policy experts from academia and a reflection or response from a Bishop or Church representative.

For instance, in response to the issue of migration, Archbishop Jose Gomez, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, urged the activists to follow the example of the farm worker movement of the 1960s and 1970s and to emulate the non-violent tactics of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Michael Czerny, who heads the Vatican office on migration, pointed out the migration has been a part of human history.  It is nothing new.  But people do not migrate toward poverty, starvation and discrimination – they migrate toward hope.  And for every challenging story of immigration, there are tens of thousands of success stories around the world.

Joining in the welcome was Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, who along with the Dioceses of Fresno and Sacramento co-hosted the meeting. This is the first “regional” edition of the World Meeting.  Two have thus far been held in Rome and one in Bolivia.

Additional information can be found here: