VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday the global financial crisis is a result of the quest for short-term gains at the expense of the common good and said the widening gap between rich and poor is a threat to world peace.
In an annual peace message directed at world leaders, Benedict said the "conscience of humanity" can no longer ignore the economic differences that have become more marked even in the most advanced countries.
Benedict has spoken out frequently on the world financial crisis — and made it a major point in the message written for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace on Jan. 1.
He said that international finance should sustain long-term investments and development but that the recent crisis "demonstrates how financial activity can be completely turned in on itself, lacking any long-term consideration of the common good."
Among other points:
• Benedict rejected the idea that high birthrates lead to poverty, pointing out that among the most developed countries, those with higher birth rates enjoy better opportunities for development. The church opposes artificial birth control and abortion.
• He said the current food crisis is characterized not so much by a shortage of food as "by the difficulty in gaining access to it and by different forms of speculation."
• He said countries dependent on commodity exports, particularly in Africa, must be given equal opportunities for access to world markets.
Benedict said the social teaching by modern popes has always been concerned with the poor and that social questions have now become international issues because of globalization.
He said the conditions in which so many in the world live in "are an insult to their innate dignity and as a result are a threat to the authentic and harmonious progress of the world community."