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Thursday, October 2, 2014

To Justice and Peace: rising inequality and poverty endanger democracy

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”: a meeting that coincides with the fifth anniversary of the publication of Benedict VI's encyclical “Caritas in veritate”. Pope Francis described it as “a fundamental document for the evangelisation of the social sphere, which offers valuable guidance for the presence of Catholics in society, in the institutions, in the economy, in finance and in politics”, which “has drawn attention to both the benefits and the dangers of globalisation, when the latter is not guided towards the good of the people. While globalisation has increased aggregate wealth and that of a number of individual States, it has also caused division between various social groups, creating inequality and new forms of poverty in within those same countries that are considered to be among the richest”.

The Pope remarked that one of the aspects of the current economic system is the exploitation of international imbalances in the costs of labour, which affects millions of people who live on less than two dollars a day. This imbalance not only fails to respect the dignity of those who provide low cost labour, but also removes sources of work from those areas where it is most protected. “This poses the problem of creating mechanisms for protecting working rights, as well as the environment, in the presence of an increasingly consumerist ideology, that does not demonstrate responsibility with regard to cities and to creation. Rising inequality and poverty put participatory and inclusive democracy at risk; the latter always presupposes an economy and a market that are fair and do not exclude. This therefore means that the structural causes of inequality and poverty must be dealt with”. Frances remarked that in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” he indicated three basic instruments for the social inclusion of the those most in need: education, access to healthcare, and work for all.

“In other words”, he explained, “the State of social rights must not be dismantled, and in particular the right to work must be protected. This must not be considered a variable, dependent upon financial and monetary markets. It is a fundamental right for dignity, for the formation of a family, for the realisation of the common good and for peace. Education and work and access to welfare for all are key elements both for development and for the just distribution of goods, for achieving social justice and for belonging to society, and for participating freely and responsibly in political life, understood as the management of the “res publica”. Ideas that claim to increase income at the cost of restricting the job market and creating further exclusion are not coherent with an economy at the service of man and the common good, or with an inclusive and participatory democracy”.

Further problems arise from the “lasting imbalances between economic sectors, remuneration, commercial banks and banks engaged in speculation, between institutions and global problems: it is necessary to remain vigilant about poverty and social justice. This requires, on the one hand, radical reforms that provide for the redistribution of the wealth produced, and the universalisation of free markets in the service of families, and on the other, a redistribution of sovereignty, at both national and supranational levels”.

Returning to the encyclical “Caritas in veritate”, the Pope noted that this document emphasised the bond between the environmental and human ecology, and affirmed the current relevance of its principles. “A love full of truth is in fact the foundation on which we must build the peace that is particularly hoped for and necessary for the good of all today. It enables us to overcome dangerous fanaticism, conflicts over the possession of resources, migration of biblical dimensions, the lasting wounds of hunger and poverty, human trafficking, social and economic injustice and disparity, and imbalance in terms of access to collective goods”. He concluded, “the Church is always on the move, in the search of new ways to proclaim the Gospel, also in the social sphere”.

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