(Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)
Pope Francis has spoken out against what he called a global "cult of money," including the free market system, and urged the world's leaders to come together and adopt ethics to help the poor.
"While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules," Francis told foreign diplomats at the Vatican in a speech focused on the economic crisis.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church also criticized the "heartless cult of money" that many around the world have embraced, and compared it to the worship of the golden calf a found in Exodus 32:15-34.
"Money has to serve, not to rule," the pope urged when talking about future financial reform.
Pope Francis has come to be known as the pope for the poor, and took the name of early church reformer St. Francis of Assisi when he was elected by his fellow cardinals in March.
While archbishop of Buenos Aries, he gained popularity for choosing modest options over lavish ones, such as taking the bus to work rather than being driven around. He has also chosen to live in a modest Vatican accommodation block instead of palatial apartments, and in April cut traditional bonuses to 4,500 city state employees and redirected them to charity.
The Vatican leader commented that some positive advancements have been made in recent times in the fields of health, education and communications, but the majority of people today continue to live in dire situations and struggle to survive.
"People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society," Francis said.
The pope continued by suggesting that many economists and politicians "consider God to be unmanageable, even dangerous, because he calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery." He called for financiers to adopt ethics, because they "lead to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market."
He encouraged financial experts and political leaders to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: "Not to share one's goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs."
Of his own duties, Francis said: "The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ's name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centered ethics in the world of finance and economics."
The entire speech, translated into English, is available on the official website of the Holy See.