Pope and U2’s Bono push women’s empowerment in anti-poverty campaign

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ROME – According to Pope Francis, women have been “in charge” since the “afternoon of the apple,” alluding to the Genesis story of Adam and Eve.

Francis’s comments came as he answered a question from U2’s lead singer Bono, who is the co-founder of the anti-poverty organization ONE. Bono told the pope that in ONE’s “Poverty is Sexist” campaign, girls’ education is presented as the “superpower” in fighting extreme poverty.

“I would like to ask His Holiness if he thinks that women and girls play the same powerful role in tackling the climate crisis?” Bono asked.

“In our common home, we speak of Mother Earth, not Father Earth,” Francis said, never getting up from the wheelchair in which he arrived, attempting to follow doctors’ orders of resting his right knee. “This is very clear. Furthermore, as I told you a short time ago, ever since the afternoon of the apple, they are the ones in charge.”

The pope and the singer had a private conversation before the event began.

On its website, ONE is described as a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030, so that everyone, everywhere can lead a life of dignity and opportunity.

The organization says the fight against poverty isn’t about charity, but about justice and equality.

Bono Vox arrives for the launch of the ‘Scholas Occurrentes’ (Latin for schools of meeting) international educational movement by Pope Francis at the pontifical Urbaniana University, in Rome, Thursday, May 19, 2022. (Credit: Andrew Medichini/AP.)

The exchange between the pontiff and rock star came on Thursday, as the two attended the latest event of Scholas Occurentes, a pet project of Pope Francis, which he began as archbishop of Buenos Aires. Its aim is to build “bridges of dialogue and encounter” in schools around the world through culture, sports, and technology.

In addition to Bono, present at the event were three famous soccer players – Ronaldinho, Dani Alves and Maxi Rodríguez – who presented Pope Francis with an olive tree that will be planted for the Soccer Match for Peace, to be held in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Oct. 10. The date is not accidental: It alludes to the jersey number of the late Diego Maradona, the Argentinian soccer legend who wore the number 10 his entire career. A video of Maradona was used at the event, along with a video from another famous Argentinian number 10, Lionel Messi.

The pope said very little this time around, and almost seemed lost amidst the whirlwind of activity around him, to the point that when the event was wrapping and he was asked to bless the people present – youth from around the world as well as several members of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps – he was heard asking those next to him, “What do I have to do now?”

Bono attended the event as one of the “teachers” of the Laudato Si’ school, Scholas latest project, that will bring together young people from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Portugal to develop socioenvironmental projects.

Laudato Si’ is Pope Francis’s 2015 document on the environment and the care of God’s creation.

The U2 frontman said that he first got involved with Scholas four years ago, “drawn to this idea of a culture of encounter.”

Thursday’s event was meant as a celebration of the statute change of Scholas Occurentes, from a pontifical foundation to a private association of the faithful of international character. The decree of the change was signed by Francis in March, but announced earlier this week. The name of the organization is now Scholas Occurrentes International Educational Movement.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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