The shooting last week at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina added to the ongoing debate regarding gun control reform in the U.S. Following that tragedy, Pope Francis has joined the likes of President Barack Obama in speaking out against the dangers of gun use and ownership.
The Pope openly criticized arms manufacturers, referring to Christians who manufacture or invest in weapons as hypocritical. “It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit of distrust, doesn’t it?” Pope Francis said at his speech in Turn, Italy, reports Reuters.
The comments are the latest example of the pope's use of politically charged and opinionated rhetoric. He recently released a lengthy encyclical on climate change, highlighting the effect of environmental changes on the world’s poor.
In the earliest years of his papacy, Pope Francis seems to be establishing a new outlook for the Catholic Church. He’s been making the most of his global influence by making progressive statements about income inequality and other issues that world leaders tend to ignore.
Since Pope Francis’s speech was delivered in Italy, it’s unsurprising the crowd responded to his comments about gun manufacturers with cheers.
According to a report conducted by The Guardian, Italy averages 11.9 firearms per 100 people. The United States, on the other hand, has the world’s highest average at 88 guns per 100 people. The number of gun homicides is also relatively low in Italy, with 0.71 per 100,000 people compared to 2.97 per 100,000 people in the U.S. In the U.S., the pope’s negative comments about gun manufacturers might not have been received so warmly.
Although the Vatican City is a tiny state, Pope Francis has the distinctive position of being able to speak to a much larger group of global citizens. His words transcend borders, reaching and having a tangible impact on the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics around the world.
The pope does, of course, have to frame all of his political statements within the context of religion. That can limit the impact of his speech, but the fact that he referred to Christians who manufacture guns as hypocrites certainly makes the same point no matter what religion you practice.
As Obama mentioned in his recent appearance on Marc Maron’s "WTF" podcast, gun sales often spike following tragedies like the one that occurred in South Carolina on June 17.
Ironically, the president mentioned, gun manufacturers benefit from high-profile mass murders due to citizens’ fears that gun rights may be revoked.
In the U.S., despite repeated instances of mass gun violence, it’s unlikely gun control laws will significantly change any time soon. Considering the pope’s influence in nations around the world, his outspoken comments about the violent nature of guns may continue. Perhaps at least the 69.4 million Catholics in the U.S. — 22 percent of the overall population — will heed his words.
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