In an interview with Portugal-based Radio Renascença aired yesterday, Pope Francis declared that the current refugee crisis in Europe is being caused by a “bad, unjust” socio-economic system that worships “the god of money.”
In the interview, where questions were posed in Portuguese and the responses were given by Pope Francis in Spanish, the pontiff said coveting money will bring about both human and ecological ruin:
“This is the tip of the iceberg. We see these refugees, these poor people who are escaping from war, escaping from hunger, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. But underlying that is the cause, and the cause is a socio-economic system that is bad, unjust, because within an economic system, within everything, within the world, speaking of the ecological problem, within the socio-economic society, in politics, the person always has to be the center. And today’s dominant economic system has removed the person from the center, and at the center is the god of money. It’s the fashionable god today. I mean, there are statistics. I don’t remember very well, but — this is not exact and I could be making a mistake— 17% of the population has 80% of the wealth.”
Pope Francis said that refugees from rural areas are being “deforested” and driven into big cities:
“Why are ‘favelas’ (shantytowns) formed in big cities?” It’s the people who come from the country because they have been deforested. They have made a mono-cultivation. They have no work, and they go to big cities.”
Ultimately, the world “is at war against itself, the Pope declared:
“Today, the world is at war, is at war against itself. That is, the world is at war — as I say — a war in parts, piecemeal. But it is also at war against the earth, because it’s destroying the earth, that is, our common home. The environment, the glaciers are melting. In the Arctic, the polar bear goes increasingly northward to survive.”
For hours on Monday morning, scores of law enforcement officials, police commanders and representatives from at least 48 agencies sat in a room on the second floor of Police Headquarters in Lower Manhattan and imagined the worst.
Two active gunmen, one at a hospital, another at a train station.
A power failure.
A building collapse on Cliff Street, a few blocks west of South Street Seaport.
The unlikely series of hypothetical events were part of a large-scale tabletop exercise in preparation for the visit of Pope Francis to New York, which begins on Sept. 24.
The visit, which is the pope’s first to the city, coincides with the United Nations General Assembly, where heads of state from about 170 countries are expected to attend. Francis will address that gathering, but from a security standpoint, his other activities provide greater challenges, given his desire to connect directly with people on the streets: a visit to an East Harlem school; a procession through Central Park.
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio surveyed the tabletop exercise, arriving at Police Headquarters shortly after 11:30 a.m. He stood on the central raised platform, ringed by large screens some showing live traffic on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive and the Brooklyn Bridge; flight patterns; and, on one, the cascade of terrifying imagined events. Nearly all were listed as open and, with a red background, high priority.
A bomb disposal robot. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
He returned in the afternoon for a news conference outside headquarters and a tour of some of the specialized equipment and personnel, including a bomb disposal robot, a pair of police dogs and the heavy weapons of the department’s new tactical unit.
The mayor described the preparations for the papal visit and the General Assembly as “unprecedented,” but added: “We welcome it. We embrace it. We look forward to it.” (It will not be the first time a pope has addressed the General Assembly: Pope Benedict XVI did so in 2008; Pope John Paul II spoke in 1979 and 1995.)
During a 15-minute window in which a reporter was permitted to observe the tabletop exercise, the mayor stood in a tight circle with the police commissioner, William J. Bratton; the head of the New York office of the Secret Service, Robert J. Sica; the head of the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Diego Rodriguez; and the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, John J. Miller.
“The idea is we can see the stretching of our resources,” Mr. Miller told the mayor, who nodded. “A lot of wheels turning at once.”
The day’s exercise was prepared by the federal Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Secret Service. The service is the lead law enforcement agency during the visit of the pope, who arrives in Washington on Sept. 22 before traveling to New York and then to Philadelphia on Sept. 26.
“Have people ready for every occasion,” said Mr. de Blasio, who listened as the law enforcement officials explained how events are triaged between agencies and how assistance is requested when resources run low.
“I’m going to interpret as a layman up here,” he said. “P.D. is doing a lot.”
Lt. John Mahon stepped to the main microphone.
“All right everyone, we’re going to go with our next event,” he announced.
Pens poised over notebooks on parallel tables. There were rows of suits and business attire and serious faces. Two men in military uniform. Above each was a laminated card with the name of the agency that person represented:
The New York Fire Department, the Sanitation Department and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Nearly every major Police Department command.
The United States Coast Guard; the F.B.I.; the Federal Communications Commission; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Energy, Justice and State Departments; Customs and Border Protection.
“We have an explosion” at a theater near Times Square, Lieutenant Mahon said. “It’s an I.E.D. explosion from a backpack. So we’ve got to get everyone involved. There’s no report of casualties yet.”
He added, “If you get anything, just bring it up to the desk.”
The mayor asked, “If people need something, they literally come up here?”
Three minutes later, another explosion, this time at a Broadway hotel. Two foreign dignitaries were listed as casualties in the exercise.
“Detail unaccounted for,” Lieutenant Mahon said, referring to the security for the dignitaries.
The mayor listened and watched the room. Nearby, a Fire Department representative was asked if he had enough emergency medical service people to handle the mounting need. He said no, but he had requested “mutual aid” from New Jersey.
“Basically, it’s information in, resources out,” said Capt. Osvaldo A. Nunez of the Police Department’s Operations Division, speaking to the mayor.
For the purpose of the exercise on Monday, none of the situations involved the pope directly, according to the Police Department.
After addressing reporters in the afternoon, the mayor walked past an array of police equipment parked on the pavement. Lt. Mark Torre, the commanding officer of the bomb squad, explained to the mayor how the arm of the robot worked.
“It does a lot, but it can’t do what these guys do,” he said, speaking of two of his officers who stood nearby.
“The human element still matters,” Mr. de Blasio said.
“Yes sir, very much so,” Lieutenant Torre said.
“Amen,” Mr. de Blasio said.