Poverty and social decay pose serious threat to families, says Pope Francis

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Pope Francis greets Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, president of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, during an audience with business leaders and Catholic social teaching experts at the Vatican on 13 May.Photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis greets Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, president of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, during an audience with business leaders and Catholic social teaching experts at the Vatican on 13 May.Photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano

An economic vision geared solely towards profit and material well-being has led to an economy of exclusion and inequality that has increased poverty and the number of people discarded “as unproductive and useless”, Pope Francis said.

The impact is clear even in the most developed countries where poverty and social decay “represent a serious threat to families, the shrinking middle class and, in a particular way, our young people”, he said on 13 May.

The pope addressed business leaders and experts in Catholic social teaching, who were attending an international conference on “business initiatives in the fight against poverty” sponsored by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation.

Established in 1993, the foundation seeks to promote the teaching of Pope St John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical on social and economic justice.

Recalling his recent visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, the Pope said the refugee crisis was “especially close to my heart”, adding that the international community is challenged to “devise long-term political, social and economic responses” to the situation that “affects the entire human family”.

“The fight against poverty is not merely a technical economic problem, but, above all, a moral one, calling for global solidarity and the development of more equitable approaches to the concrete needs and aspirations of individuals and peoples worldwide,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged the business leaders attending the conference to build “the foundations for a business and economic culture that is more inclusive and respectful of human dignity”.

Youth unemployment, he continued, is a scandal that must be addressed “first and foremost” not only in economic terms, but as an urgent social ill that robs young people of hope and squanders “their great resources of energy, creativity and vision”.

The pope encouraged Catholic business leaders to generate new models of economic progress geared toward the universal common good “in accordance with the values of God’s kingdom”.

“Yours is, in fact, a vocation at the service of human dignity and the building of a world of authentic solidarity,” Pope Francis told them.