What is poverty? A reflection from Fratelli Tutti

As I was reading through Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti, I read on his critique of a throw-away world where he mentioned poverty. We usually think of poverty as the state of being economically poor and disadvantaged. Pope Francis, echoing Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching, reiterates that “new forms of poverty are emerging” in a globalized world where while there is an increase in wealth there is also an increase in inequality.

Poverty for Pope Francis is a lack of actual opportunities in a concrete historical period. I take it is actual because these are the very opportunities afforded by a society’s way of living. The problem is that in every society, a part of the population does not enjoy opportunities that others enjoy.

It is also important to talk of what these opportunities are. While it is easy to think of economic opportunities like a store of wealth and access to resources, Pope Benedict’s words on new forms of poverty is curious. What I can think of now is poverty in information where a segment of the Philippine population does not have proper and decent access to information (access), where in the online world false and misleading information drowns truth (source), and where information consumers do not have the sufficient skills and the attitude for human communication, reflection, and critical thinking (ability).

Poverty exists for as long as we fail in solidarity, when we forget to share and care, and imprison ourselves in self-centeredness. Fratelli Tutti is the Pope’s teaching on fraternity or brotherhood which as the current events and violence shows us, the world’s needs badly today. If we really are all brothers and sisters in this common home, my brother’s poverty is also mine and in looking out for each other’s poverty, nobody becomes poor.



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