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Pope Francis venerates the Cross on Good Friday in 2015.

ROME, Italy, April 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Amid the economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis in an Easter message has called for “a humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money,” placing “human life and dignity” at the center. 

Not once in his message to members of “popular movements and organizations” delivered on Easter Sunday — when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus — did the Pope talk about religious conversion to the Christian faith. 

Pope Francis brought the term “ecological conversion” into vogue in his 2015 encyclical letter on the environment Laudato Si’, in which he made use of the phrase five times. He said that people who “choose not to change their habits” with regard to the “ecological crisis” are in need of an “‘ecological conversion.’”

In his 2016 message for the celebration of World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis called on Catholics to have an “ecological conversion” and go to confession for “sins” of not being respectful of creation, giving examples of examination of conscience such as “avoiding the use of plastic and paper,” “separating refuse,” and “turning off unnecessary lights.”

Last week, the Pope doubled-down on his belief that the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping around the world is “certainly nature’s response” to man’s failure to address humanity’s impact on the environment. 

When asked in an interview published by The Tablet last Wednesday if the current crisis and the economic devastation it is wreaking is a chance for an “ecological conversion,” the Pope responded: 

There is an expression in Spanish: “God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives.” We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.

Last month, the Pope said he believes that the coronavirus pandemic is nature “having a fit” in response to environmental pollution. “Fires, earthquakes … that is, nature is having a fit, so that we will take care of nature.”

During his homily at the Urbi et Orbi ceremony on April 1, Pope Francis again returned to his theme of linking the coronavirus pandemic to a response from the planet to environmental pollution.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, known for his outspoken faithfulness to perennial Catholic teaching, has warned Catholics about calls for “ecological conversion.” Behind this concept, Burke said, lurks an “insidious” agenda of idolatry and one-world government.

“With regard to ‘ecological conversion,’ what I see behind this is a push for worship of ‘Mother Earth,’” said Cardinal Raymond Burke in a wide-ranging interview with The Wanderer published Dec. 26.

Burke said that “ecological conversion” is also being used as “an argument for a one-world government.”

“This is a masonic idea, an idea of completely secularized people who no longer recognize that the governance of the world is in the hands of God, Who entrusts it to individual governments, nations, and groupings of people according to nature itself,” he said.

“The idea of a one-world government is fundamentally the same phenomenon that was displayed by the builders of the Tower of Babel who presumed to exercise the power of God on earth to unite heaven with earth, which is simply incorrect,” he continued.

“What we truly need is a religious conversion, in other words, a strong teaching and practice of faith in God and obedience to the order with which He has created us,” he added.

Burke called “ecological conversion” a “very insidious” phrase that is being used to “promote a certain agenda which has nothing to do with our Catholic faith.”

Pope calls for ‘universal basic wage’

In his April 12 Easter message, the Holy Father also called for a “universal basic wage” that he said would “acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks” carried out by many workers.

The Pope expressed his hope “that this time of danger will free us from operating on automatic pilot, shake our sleepy consciences and allow a humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money.”

He then criticized “[o]ur civilization” as “so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few.” It “needs to downshift, take stock, and renew itself,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis wrote in his letter that the poor and excluded, including migrants, of which the popular movements and organizations are comprised are “an invisible army, fighting in the most dangerous trenches; an army whose only weapons are solidarity, hope, and community spirit, all revitalizing at a time when no one can save themselves alone.”

To him, he said, “you are social poets because, from the forgotten peripheries where you live, you create admirable solutions for the most pressing problems afflicting the marginalized.”

“Market solutions do not reach the peripheries, and State protection is hardly visible there,” Pope Francis summarized the situation of the popular movements and organizations. “Nor do you have the resources to substitute for its functioning. You are looked upon with suspicion when through community organization you try to move beyond philanthropy or when, instead of resigning and hoping to catch some crumbs that fall from the table of economic power, you claim your rights.”

“You often feel rage and powerlessness at the sight of persistent inequalities and when any excuse at all is sufficient for maintaining those privileges,” he continued. “Nevertheless, you do not resign yourselves to complaining: you roll up your sleeves and keep working for your families, your communities, and the common good. Your resilience helps me, challenges me, and teaches me a great deal.”

“I know that you have been excluded from the benefits of globalization,” he stated. 

In the context of a “universal basic wage,” the Pope mentioned “[s]treet vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers.” He referred to them as “informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy,” without a “steady income to get you through this hard time … and the lockdowns are becoming unbearable.”

While the Pope’s use of “universal basic wage” in his letter to members of popular movements and organizations was first interpreted by some as “universal basic income,” Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ clarified in comments to America Magazine that the two are distinct concepts.

Francis’ understanding, the under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development explained, comes “from the pope’s Argentinian background and his involvement with cartoneros [residents who collect and recycle trash for compensation] in Buenos Aires.” Thus, the term “universal basic wage” refers “only to informal workers,” guaranteeing “some basic rights and a stable wage.”

The broader term of a “universal basic income” has come under fire even by members of the hierarchy considered more liberal. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the former president of the German Bishops’ Conference, said in 2017 a “universal basic income” would be the “end of democracy.”

Arkadiusz Sieroń, an assistant professor of economics at the Institute of Economic Sciences at the University of Wrocław, Poland, used simple math to prove the impossibility of a “universal basic income.”

“Let us assume for simplicity that there are 250 million adult Americans and that each of them would receive $1,000 monthly … So we get a total cost of $250 billion monthly and $3 trillion annually. It would amount to about 14 percent of US GDP, or 42 percent of total government spending, or 73 percent of the federal outlays,” Sieroń pointed out.

“For comparison, this is more than the total expenditure on health care, defense, and education. And yet we are talking about ‘just’ $12,000 annually (or 19 percent of the median household salary, or 36 percent of the median personal income). Good luck with such an expensive program!”

Pope Francis had talked to gatherings of popular movements and organizations on three occasions prior to his Easter 2020 letter.

In 2014, he explained, “This meeting of ours responds to a very concrete desire, something that any father and mother would want for their children – a desire for what should be within everyone’s reach, namely land, housing and work.”

In his most recent letter, Pope Francis echoed this desire, referring to the popular movements and organizations’ campaign for “universal access to those three Ts that you defend: Trabajo (work), Techo (housing), and Tierra (land and food).”

LifeSiteNews reported in 2016 that left-wing billionaire George Soros partially funded the popular movements and organizations. Soros has also financed groups dissenting from Catholic teaching, including Catholics for Choice, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Catholics United.

Pete Baklinski contributed to this report.