DAVOS, Switzerland – On January 21, a speech written by Pope Francis and read by Cardinal Peter Turkson was part of the opening ceremony for the 2014 World Economic Forum. Turkson is the president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice.
The event hosted over 2,500 attendees including heads of state, CEOs, and numerous elite individuals from over 100 countries. Notable attendees included Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer; prime ministers from Great Britain, Iran, Australia, Japan, and Israel; the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff; and celebrities such as Matt Damon and Bono of U2.
The day before the event, Oxfam International released a report that stated the wealth of the 85 richest people in the world is equal to that of half of the world’s population. Oxfam International attributed part of this claim to the ability of these individuals to evade taxes. The report expressed worry that the super rich are not doing enough to help the world’s poor, especially as the inequality gap is only growing wider over time. Furthermore, Oxfam said that the gap is responsible for increases in “social tensions” and could also increase the possibility of a breakdown of society.
Pope Francis’ fundamental call to action for the event’s attendees was to take from “great human and moral resources” in order to “ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.” His emphasis on serving humanity and creating the human family was the clear focus of this speech, which was read to arguably some of the most powerful and influential individuals on the planet.
Pope Francis wrote that individuals working in the political and economic sectors “have a precise responsibility towards others, particularly those who are most frail, weak and vulnerable.” These comments are consistent with those that the Pope made late in November, regarding his opinions of the financial status quo and trickle-down economics. Pope Francis has also discussed both health care and unemployment in accordance with his views on inequality.
In his first official document released in November, Pope Francis described trickle-down economics as “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” All of Pope Francis’ comments appear to evoke a sense of recognizing inequality in the world and calling upon those with the proper resources to take action. He expressed a view that today’s economic system disregards any problems or issues that interfere with making more profits.
In regard to inequality, Pope Francis expressed “intolerable” emotions towards world hunger, noting that there are substantial amounts of food available in the world and that food is often wasted. He also discussed the lives of refugees “who not only fail to find hospitality, but often, tragically, perish in moving from one place to another.”
Additionally, on January 21, the White House announced that President Barack Obama will meet with Pope Francis for the first time on March 27. Obama will make this meeting part of his European trip to the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. The White House noted a shared commitment of both men to fight against poverty and inequality.
– Julie Guacci
Sources: US News and World Report, The Independent, World Economic Forum, USA Today