Pope attacks global economics for worshipping 'god of money'

CAGLIARI, Sardinia Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:46am EDT

1 of 5. Pope Francis looks on as he leads a mass outside the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari September 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito

CAGLIARI, Sardinia (Reuters) - Pope Francis made one of his strongest attacks on the global economic system on Sunday, saying it could no longer be based on a "god called money" and urged the unemployed to fight for work.

Francis, at the start of a day-long trip to the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, put aside his prepared text at a meeting with unemployed workers, including miners in hard hats who told him of their situation, and improvised for nearly 20 minutes.

"I find suffering here ... It weakens you and robs you of hope," he said. "Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity."

He discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago.

Mattana, his voice trembling, told the pope that unemployment "oppresses you and wears you out to the depths of your soul".

The crowd of about 20,000 people in a square near the city port chanted what Francis called a prayer for "work, work, work". They cheered each time he spoke of the rights of workers and the personal devastation caused by joblessness.

The pope, who later celebrated Mass for some 300,000 people outside the city's cathedral, told them: "We don't want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money."

"The world has become an idolator of this god called money," he said.

Sardinia's coast is famous for its idyllic beaches, exclusive resorts and seaside palatial residences of some of the world's richest people, including former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and a host of Hollywood actors.

But much of the island, particularly its large cities and the vast agricultural and industrial interior, has been blighted by the economic crisis, with factories closed and mines operating at low capacity.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT, CLOSING MINES

Cagliari has a youth unemployment rate of about 51 percent. The Sulcis area in the southwest of the island is threatened with more unemployment from the looming closures of the Carbosulcis coal mine and an aluminum smelter.

The pope made clear that his assessment was not limited to the local situation.

"It is not a problem of Italy and Europe ... It is the consequence of a world choice, of an economic system that brings about this tragedy, an economic system that has at its centre an idol which is called money," he said to the cheers of the crowd.

While Francis's predecessor Benedict also called for changes to economic systems, he was more likely to use dense intellectual language.

Francis, who as bishop of Buenos Aires sided with unemployed workers in their conflict with government austerity plans, ended his improvised speech with a prayer asking God to "give us work and teach us to fight for work".

Francis said he did not want the crowd to see him as a smiling "cordial manager of the Church who comes here and says to you 'have courage'".

He added: "I don't want this. I want this courage to come from inside me and push me to do everything I can as a pastor and a man."

Francis brought tears to the eyes of some in the crowd when he told his own family's story of emigration from Italy to Argentina and how they lost everything in the Great Depression.

"I was not born yet, but as a child I remember hearing talk of this suffering," he said.

Francis said globalization had brought with it a culture where the weakest in society suffered the most and often, those on the fringes "fall away", including the elderly, who he said were victims of a "hidden euthanasia" caused by neglect of those no longer considered productive.

"To defend this economic culture, a throwaway culture has been installed. We throw away grandparents, and we throw away young people. We have to say no to his throwaway culture. We want a just system that helps everyone," he said.

(Editing by Will Waterman)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (39)
JL4 wrote:
Wow. I like this guy.

Sep 22, 2013 7:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
BlueMary wrote:
Thank You God for Pope Francis! He is a blessing!!!

Sep 22, 2013 9:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
wesatch wrote:
How refreshing.

A man telling the truth about what is really
happening in the world. An economic system that feeds on people and not the other way around. Led, of course, by the greatest exploiter of labor in the world, the U.S. and its paid off government spreading the gospel of “free trade” while consuming goods and services where employees in foreign countries are paid 20 cents an hour.

In the U.S., if you don’t consume you are not productive and you have no worth. The elderly have become the burden, the uninsured a burden.
Corporations want only those that spend and borrow to spend.

The U.S. financial system now dominates and controls the entire country, with the Federal Reserve stealing the value of savers and account holders assets, transferring that wealth to debtors, deadbeats, wall street, banks, speculators and the government in the form of manipulated interest rates. WE have infected the entire globe with our greed.

The next U.S. presidential candidate should echo what this Pope has said. There would be a landslide.

Sep 22, 2013 9:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.