Back to Archive 2000


The Globe: Up here and down under

About a year ago, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Australian Bishops’ Conference invited me to spend the week of May 21 in their country. Each year they invite a non-Australian to come to deliver the annual Dom Helder Camara lecture on a topic related to Catholic social teaching. Cardinal Bernardin spoke on the consistent ethic of life several years ago, and they asked me to come this year to speak on the phenomenon of globalization in the light of social justice. During the week, I’ll give the lecture in Melbourne and in Sydney. I’ll also speak at Australia’s recently founded Catholic university, named Notre Dame, in Perth, Western Australia.

It will be fall “down under” and thc traffic will stay to the left rather than the right. But I’ll be at home because I’ve experienced the warmth of an Australian welcome several times before and know a number of people there. The topic gives me a chance to revisit a subject I presented at the first American Missionary Congress in Parana, Argentina, last September.

Whether in America or in Australia, “globalization” is a subject of interest because it affects our patterns of living at the beginning of a new millennium and therefore affects also our way of living the faith. “Globalization” is shorthand for changes in human relationships because time and space are now both compressed and expanded by the computer and the World Wide Web. Because electronic communication makes it possible to move information and capital at the touch of a computer key, we have begun to relate differently in economic life, political life and cultural life. The world is unified in a new way at the beginning of a new millennium. What does the faith say to these new global relationships?

Positively, globalization makes it possible for the human family to experience the unity we have always had from the time of creation. This unity has been often put aside because of war and prejudice, but the faith tells us that all human beings belong to the same family. One of the descriptions of the Church in the documents of the Second Vatican Council calls her “the sacrament of the unity of the human race.” This theological truth can now be experienced for the first time in human history. The Pope’s call for global solidarity is now a practical project.

An area of immediate practical importance is the universal defense of human rights. Communications technology in this newly global era has made possible effective protection of human rights for the first time everywhere in the world. The movement against the deployment of land mines, for example, was conducted entirely over the Internet. The televised display of famine and war-induced suffering has mobilized public opinion and forced governments to support campaigns to correct injustices and eradicate certain diseases. Access to information and the shrinking of distance can improve the quality of human life in significant ways. All this can only be cause for rejoicing by believers in the equal dignity and common destiny of all men and women everywhere on the earth.

Negatively, globalization seems driven by values which reduce human beings to economic factors. It has created an order in which the gap between the rich and the poor seems to be growing, as some individuals and entire groups have no access to the technology which pushes them to the margins of life instead of bringing them into relation to others. The leveling of cultures through global entertainment and information systems robs some people of their dignity and sometimes invites even violent reaction in defense of cultures being bypassed in a new global order. All this gives people of faith reason to pause and ask what “globalization in solidarity”, as Pope John Paul II describes it, would look like. The Pope has pointed out that there is a global common good which is possible only if every human person is the center of the social order. We have a long way to go to achieve such a social order globally.

Thc Catholic Church brings her own universality into this new moment of human history. “Catholic” means extended through the entire world as a single faith community embracing the fullness of truth revealed by God. The Church was born in an empire which made universal claims, and the Church is at home in the entire world. The Church encourages us toward a “new evangelization” because she recognizes that this new moment in human history is a great opportunity. We can use the new relationships created by a global network to spread the Gospel more effectively.

The celebration of the Great Jubilee encourages us to work toward a fresh start for the entire human race. In the Book of Leviticus, the jubilee year was a time to forgive debt and set slaves free.

Authentic globalization will foster the participation of all in the world’s social, political, economic and cultural life by giving the poor a fresh start. Our faith can help us imagine how this might come about. Our prayer can give us the courage to begin, both up here and down under and everywhere else on the face of the earth. You are in my prayers, even when I’m in Australia.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago




Back to Archive 2000