(Photo: REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)
Pope Francis has condemned the "idolatry of big businesses" and the global economy for high levels of unemployment, but offered hope to people struggling to find jobs during a recent trip to one of Italy's poorest regions.
"It's easy to say 'don't lose hope,''' the leader of the Roman Catholic Church told close to 20,000 employed and unemployed workers in Sardinia's capital in Cagliari, Vatican Radio reported. "But to all of you who have work, and to those who don't, let me tell you: Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope.''
Francis, who has often spoken out against greed and indifference toward the poor, denounced what he called "big business' idolatry of money over man."
Pope Francis told the masses that he knew what it was like to suffer from financial crisis, recalling the stories of Italian priests who had immigrated to Argentina before he was born.
"They lost everything. There was no work," he said. "I was not born yet, but I heard them speak about this suffering at home. I know this well. But I must tell you: courage."
The Vatican leader admitted that it was easy for a priest "to come and tell the poor to have courage," but insisted that he stands behind his words, adding that "where there is no work, there is no dignity."
"I must do everything I can so that this word 'courage' is not a pretty fleeting word, not only the smile of (a) cordial church employee," Francis continued. "I want this courage to come out from inside and push me to do all I can as a pastor, as a man. We must all face this historic challenge with solidarity and intelligence."
Francis further reflected on the financial problems in Sardinia, noting that they were the result of a global economic system "that has at its center an idol called money."
"We want a just system, a system that lets all of us get ahead," the pope said. "We don't want this globalized economic system that does us so much harm. At its center there should be man and woman, as God wants, and not money."
Sardinia has an overall unemployment rate close to 20 percent, Catholic News Service added, and as high as 50 percent among your adults. Francis listened to a number of people speak during his visit, including an unemployed father of three who said that joblessness "wears you out to the depths of your soul."
The Vatican leader warned, however, against those who practice charity for the wrong reasons.
"Charity is not simply welfare, much less welfare to soothe one's conscience," he said. "That's not love, right? It's business, a transaction. Love is free."
"Sometimes one finds arrogance, too, in those who serve the poor," the pope added. "Some make themselves pretty, they fill their mouths with the poor; some exploit the poor in their own interests or those of their group."
Pope Francis' official Twitter Page, followed by over 3 million people, sent out its latest prayer on Tuesday:
"Let us ask the Lord to give us the gentleness to look upon the poor with understanding and love, devoid of human calculation and fear."