By Joe Burns, Commission Member
This online international conference, on 15 April, was organised principally by the Centre for Theology and Community, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Katholische Hochschule für Sozialwesen in zoom video call people mosaicGermany. However, there was a strong presence and input from people with a community organising background (so, people active in Citizens UK, for example). The conference theme was based on the title quote by Pope Francis (included in the book ‘Let us Dream’) and was all about how we reinvigorate a ‘Politics for the Common Good’.

Pope Francis had made a short video for the conference expounding this theme that politics ‘must not be for the people but with the people’. He encapsulated this idea with the phrase ‘inclusive populism’ – to distinguish it from the narrowly nationalistic trends that are seen in a number of countries today. It is about ‘securing a life for all people that is worthy of being called human’. This is something that cannot be done without taking true account of the culture and social values of communities.
There were various elements to the conference, but one was led by Jessica Wilkinson, Youth Coordinator for the Leeds Diocese, along with Tom Chigbo (Senior Organiser for Leeds Citizens) and Rev Dr Joe Cortis (who heads up Caritas Leeds). Youth officer Ryan Wilkinson had put together a video about the group known as ‘The Twelve’. Thisthe logo of the group known as the twelve is a group of young people who have been meeting regularly throughout lockdown to explore their faith and dialogue with Bishop Marcus about the issues that are important to young people. This reminded me of one of the key messages of Diarmuid O’Murchu in the Day of Reflection the Commission organised last November. He talked about the need to better understand what is meant by ‘the Kingdom of God’ and that a number of biblical scholars now think the best translation is ‘creating empowered communities’ – communities that are confident in their own ability to question and explore and where everyone is included. This sounds very much to me like a ‘politics rooted in the people’. It also sounds very like the process that the young people in The Twelve have been experiencing. They clearly felt very empowered.

From the 70 or so people in the Leeds Diocese Zoom segment there was much praise for The Twelve and how the approach is one that could be adopted across the world to build a new generation of lay leadership.

The Twelve have an invite from the Commission to come along and lead discussions at a future meeting of Commission members and we look forward to arranging that with them and deepening the work we are already doing through the SPARK Social Justice Project.