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Key aide insists Pope Francis isn’t anti-business

Inés San Martín – January 18, 2016
VATICAN CORRESPONDENT

ROME — In some quarters, there’s a perception that under history’s first pope from the global south, the Catholic Church has become increasingly hostile to capitalism in favor of more socialist-style economic arrangements. Yet in a recent speech to a Rome summit of business and religious leaders, Francis’ hand-picked economic

ROME – In some quarters, there’s a perception that under history’s first pope from the global south, the Catholic Church has become increasingly hostile to capitalism in favor of more socialist-style economic arrangements.

Yet in a recent speech to a Rome summit of business and religious leaders, Francis’ hand-picked economic czar bluntly declared that “no better model is available at the moment” than market economies … and, he insisted, Pope Francis agrees.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, appointed by Francis as the first-ever head of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy, was the keynote speaker at a Jan. 17-18 roundtable organized by the Australian-based Global Foundation in Rome.

Pell insisted the pope’s stance on business is more positive than often portrayed.

“We are all aware of Pope Francis’ commitment to social justice, his option for the poor and those on the peripheries, and his condemnations of exploitation, abuse, and consumerism,” Pell said, arguing that Francis’ favorable references to the role of business are less diffused.

He quoted remarks the pontiff made to the US Congress last fall and his encyclical Laudato Si’, on the protection of the environment, to make his point.

“Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world,” Francis wrote in the encyclical.

In his address, Pell was critical of “new and deepening inequalities,” saying it’s “incongruous” that corporate executives who presided over huge losses nevertheless receive massive bonuses.

Pell said it would be useful to introduce a distinction between the “deserving and underserving rich,” as there once used to be between “deserving and underserving poor.”

“It is sobering to realize that someone around the US poverty level of $11,000 a year is in the top 15 per cent of world income distribution, and that the bottom 20 per cent of the world’s population earns less than $550 a year,” Pell said.

The cardinal also gave an overview of the “Catholic contribution” to business.

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