Pope’s book accuses colonial powers of robbery

Rome, April 8:

Pope Benedict appeared to reach out to the anti-globalisation movement, attacking rich nations for ha-ving ‘plundered and sacked’ Africa and other poor regions of the world.

An extract published from his first book since being elected pope highlighted the passionately anti-materialistic and anti-capitalist aspects of his thi-nking. Unexpectedly, the Pope also approvingly cited Karl Marx and his analysis of contemporary man as a victim of alienation.

The Pope’s 400-page book, entitled Jesus of Nazareth, is to be published on April 16, his 80th birthday. Yesterday the newspaper Corriere della Sera, which is owned by the book’s publishers, Rizzoli, presented a lengthy extract. It includes Benedict’s thoughts on the parable of the Good Samaritan, who went to the aid of a traveller shunned by other passers-by after he had been stripped and beaten by robbers. While many commentators accuse the rich nations of not acting like the Samaritan, the Pope goes a big step further and compares them to the thieves.

“If we apply the story to the dimensions of globalised society wesee how the peoples of Africa, who have been plundered and sacked, seeus from close-up,” he wrote. “Our style of life and the history in which we are involved has stripped them and continues to strip them.”

The Pope wrote that the damage was not just material. “We have wounded them spiritually too,” he said. “Instead of giving them God - and thereby welcoming in from their traditions all that is precious and great - we have brought them the cynicism of a world without God in which only power and profit count.”

His judgment is bound to be seen as a condemnation of colonialism. But it could also be read as a confession of the failures of the Roman Catholic church’s own missionary activity, which often followed in the wake of conquest and colonisation.