Pope Francis has regularly underlined how Christ’s vision privileged those who are materially disadvantaged, marginalised and excluded, and has called on Catholics to establish a more equitable world. The gap between rich and poor has continued to rise exponentially since the abrupt end to the Celtic Tiger and one wonders when the social documents of Vatican II might be reignited to combat the massive disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Gerard McCann quotes the words of Martin Luther King, which have a huge significance for today’s world: “We must rapidly begin to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
People inspired by the spirit of Vatican II were to the forefront in the struggle for human rights in places like South and Central America, often (as in the case of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador) paying for their convictions with their lives. In Ireland, the Jesuit priest Peter McVerry and Sister Stanislaus Kennedy of Focus Ireland are two well-known and respected advocates for the homeless, while Brother Kevin Crowley runs the Capuchin Day Centre on Merchants Quay, where hundreds of people come daily to avail of the meals that are supplied there for those who have fallen on hard times. These three spiritual witnesses are in harmony with the spirit of Vatican II.