The former president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is visiting the Vatican since Tuesday, where he will meet with Pope Francis on Thursday, to address topics such as hunger, social inequality, and intolerance in Brazil and the world.
The meeting between the two world leaders was announced in January by the Argentinian president, Alberto Fernández, during his visit to the Vatican.
The Brazilian liberation theology pioneer Leonardo Boff told Brasil de Fato that one of the major topics to be discussed in the meeting on Thursday will be social inequality. Pope Francis, Boff said, “wants to ask Lula how he managed to reduce inequality in Brazil.”
“It’s a meeting between two great world-renowned charismatic leaders. That will be good for the pope, who will draw on Lula’s experience in the process of reducing inequality. And it will be important for Lula to meet with the pope, as both are equally engaged in exposing and rejecting this global system that creates so much poverty, harms nature, and is anti-life. The pope has been exposing this inequality as a consequence of an anti-life form of producing and exploiting workers and nature itself,” the theologian said.
Lula ran the country between 2003 and 2010, and his fellow Workers’ Party member Dilma Rousseff took office after that, serving as president between 2011 and 2016. Hunger dropped 82 percent in the country in 2014 over 2003. By the end of that period, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced that food insecurity affecting Brazilians had reached levels as low as 5 percent.
In 2014, 4.5 percent of Brazilians lived below the poverty line, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. But since the Michel Temer government, who took office in 2016 after the ousting of Rousseff, that rate grew to 6.5 percent, reaching 13.5 million people. Since 2015, more than 4.5 million Brazilians were living below the poverty threshold.
Leonardo Boff underscored that another key aspect Lula and the pope are expected to address is “rescuing democracy,” “especially in our country, which is being threatened by intolerance and brutality.”
The theologian said that both Lula and the pope are charismatic leaders that have the ability to “mobilize people to fundamental causes,” like “the peaceful coexistence without hatred and intolerance, between the peoples of humanity.”
“The pope is concerned about democracy in Latin America, and this is a key issue for Lula’s struggle. I believe that the pope understood that [Lula's] prison was politically motivated and should not have happened. He rightfully wrote a letter to Lula [when he was in prison], which means he acknowledged what his incarceration meant,” Boff pointed out.
The theologian and philosopher also told Brasil de Fato that the Amazon will be another key topic of conversation between Lula and the pope.
“The pope will ask Lula about how crucial the Amazon is for humanity, and how he and governments should protect this biome.”
“I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced. I dream of an Amazon region that can preserve its distinctive cultural riches, where the beauty of our humanity shines forth in so many varied ways. I dream of an Amazon region that can zealously preserve its overwhelming natural beauty and the superabundant life teeming in its rivers and forests. I dream of Christian communities capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region, and giving the Church new faces with Amazonian features,” the pope wrote.
Edited by: Leandro Melito