Pope Francis calls for rethink on economic development and lifestyles

(Photo: REUTERS / Giampiero Sposito)Pope Francis visits the traditional Crib in St Peter's Square at the Vatican December 31, 2013.

The string of economic crises facing the world should encourage a rethink of economic development models and lifestyle changes, Pope Francis says in a message for World Day of Peace, January 1.

"Today's crisis, even with its serious implications for people's lives, can also provide us with a fruitful opportunity to rediscover the virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and strength," said Francis.

Such virtues can help people deal with difficult moments and to recover the "fraternal bonds which join us one to another" says the pontiff in his peace message for New Year that was revealed first on December 12.

In retrieving such bonds they will build the confidence necessary to realize that human needs are greater than the maximizing of individual interest.

"Above all, these virtues are necessary for building and preserving a society in accord with human dignity," said Francis delivering the message.

It is his first New Year since becoming the first pontiff from Latin America in March. That was after Benedict XVI, in February, became the first pope in hundreds of years to voluntarily relinquish his position.


In his peace day message Pope Francis alludes to global systems and the family in modern society, saying fraternity is needed to draw human beings together.

The World Day of Peace message also meshes with Francis' homily on New Year's Eve delivered from St. Peter's Basilica in which he asked if people spent 2013 helping others or in pushing their own self-interest.

"Let us courageously ask ourselves: How did we live the time [God] gave us?" asked the Pope. "Did we use it above all for ourselves, for our interests, or did we know how to spend it for others as well?"

Francis says the current financial and economic crises spring from "the progressive distancing of man from God and from his neighbour, in the greedy pursuit of material goods on the one hand, and in the impoverishment of interpersonal and community relations on the other."

These he said "have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy."

Before the message was revealed in early December Conservative U.S. radio talk show host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh riled some American Catholics by accusing Pope Francis of preaching "pure Marxism," stirring a debate on the pontiff's messages.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, however, riposted by saying, "Francis's critique of unrestrained capitalism is in line with the Church's social teaching."


In his message Francis links his teaching to a succession of teaching from other popes such as Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

He notes a warning in 1979 by John Paul II of "a real perceptible danger that, while man's dominion over the world of things is making enormous advances, he should lose the essential threads of his dominion and in various ways let his humanity be subjected to the world."

In following this course John Paul said humanity could become "subject to manipulation in many ways...through the whole of the organization of community life, through the production system and through pressure from the means of social communication."

Francis refers to his predecessor Benedict pointing out that globalization makes humanity neighbors, but does not make people brothers.

In a key doctrinal letter, known as an encyclical, in 2009 Benedict's message was that, "New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds."

Those ideologies fuel the "'throw away' mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered 'useless.'"

Francis also notes that Benedict's encyclical Caritas in Veritate reminded the world how "the lack of fraternity between peoples and men and women is a significant cause of poverty."

He said that many societies experience acute poverty of relationships due to the absence of secure family and community relationships.

"We are concerned by the various types of hardship, marginalization, isolation and various forms of pathological dependencies which we see increasing.

"This kind of poverty can be overcome only through the rediscovery and valuing of fraternal relationships in the heart of families and communities, through the sharing of joys and sorrows, of the hardships and triumphs that are a part of human life."

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