The following comes from a Fresno Bee article by Carmen George:
Apart of a group invited by the Vatican to attend a gathering in Bolivia last week, Monsignor Raymond Dreiling, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, was sitting within feet of Pope Francis as he delivered a speech that Monsignor Dreiling believes will “go down in history as one of the most important statements by the Catholic Church regarding “this issue of ‘tierra’ — the earth — ‘trabajo’ — work — and ‘techo’ — housing.”
The address closed the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, attended by more than 1,500 people, the majority of them community organizers.
Monsignor Dreiling, whose diocese represents 1.2 million Catholics, said much of the three-day event was “political posturing” and speeches from activists expressing concerns regarding public health, the environment, labor and poverty.
“At the source of all that is frustration, is anger, is a sense of powerlessness,” Dreiling said. “And they’re just asking, ‘Can anybody hear us? Is anybody listening? Does anybody care?
“And the Holy Father, in his speech (July 9), said, ‘I hear you. I’m listening. And I care, and the church cares with you.’ That brought so much hope, so much encouragement to these people who have been so pressed down, even by the church, over the centuries.
“Now the church is saying, ‘No, no, no. We were wrong. Now what we want to do is we want to partner with you. We want to accompany you on this journey for basic human rights, a good living, a good wage, clean water, clean air, all those things that sustain and support your life, we are with you on that.’ And that is directly the message that the pope gave to that group.”
Dreiling attended the gathering as part of a delegation of five from the Central Valley and Los Angeles through PICO, a national network of faith-based groups working for social justice. The PICO delegation was apart of a group of 40 people invited by the Vatican.
Water from Fresno, brought to the gathering in a small glass jar, was also blessed by the pope during a small group blessing after his speech on July 9.
Monsignor Dreiling was especially touched by the pope’s apology on behalf of the church for the “grave sins” committed against the native peoples of the Americas in the name of God, along with his decision to end his speech by asking people to pray for him, then adding, “If some of you are unable to pray, with all respect, I ask you to send me your good thoughts and energy.”
“The people went wild,” Monsignor Dreiling said. “Their response was, ‘How cool is that!?’ So even the Christians among us, we stood up and applauded that because he was including everybody, everybody.”
Monsignor Dreiling said the Vatican designated the speech a mini encyclical, “which means this isn’t just a speech, this is teaching document for all Catholics … it will be used as a teaching tool for generations to come.”
The Bolivian government took the lead in organizing the gathering, with support from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The council’s leader, Cardinal Peter Turkson, spoke at length with the Valley delegation over several days, hearing about things like California’s drought, pollution and poverty.
“He was very interested and wanted to hear more and more about it,” Monsignor Dreiling said. “I noticed this great and powerful guy — he’s a cardinal, first of all, right next to the pope, working in one of the offices of the Vatican — would sit down in the midst of the people. He had no place of honor. … He would sit among them and participate in the event as one of the people. He didn’t make a big deal about it, but I was very impressed with that.”
The PICO delegation say they are committed to putting the pope’s words into action in the Valley and that the region’s issues aren’t much different from those in many other countries. Monsignor Dreiling said the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis will consult a declaration of commitments to promote social change, drafted by people at the Bolivia gathering, to inform his speeches in September before the United Nations and U.S. Congress.