10 December 2020, The Tablet

In the footsteps of the people’s Pope

In the footsteps of the people’s Pope

Fr Jorge Bergoglio, before he became Pope Francis, serving the poor in Buenos Aires
Photo: CNS courtesy of Maria Elena Bergoglio


An Anglican priest working in London’s East End sees the vision Francis sketches out in Let Us Dream brought to life in local initiatives that put the poorest at the heart of politics

There is only a Westminster because there was once also an Eastminster. The Abbey of St Mary Graces was founded by Edward III in 1350. Dissolved in 1539, its shrine has been restored inside the local Catholic Church of the English Martyrs, in the parish of Tower Hill.

The streets around this church in east London contain stark contrasts of wealth and status. At the height of the pandemic, Pope Francis spoke of the “ordinary people – often forgotten people” who were “in these very days writing the decisive events of our time”. Coronavirus was revealing how our common life was sustained by “doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, care givers, providers of transport, law and order forces …”. These are all well represented in Eastminster today.

In his new book Let Us Dream, Francis advocates a Copernican revolution in our ­politics. Instead of viewing politics from the places of political and economic power (the “Westminsters” of the nation), he summons us to see it from the vantage point of the peripheries. For Francis, the “often forgotten people” of places like Eastminster are the true centre of the political firmament.

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