Pope's Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

«The growth of inequalities and of poverties puts at risk inclusive and participatory democracy, which always presupposes an economy and a market that does not exclude and that is equitable»

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Below is a transation of Pope Francis’ address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which he gave at noon today in the Vatican:


Lord Cardinals,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Brothers and Sisters,

I greet you all affectionately and I thank Cardinal Peter Turkson for the words with which he introduced this meeting. Your Plenary Assembly coincides with the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, a fundamental document for the evangelization of the social sphere, which offers valuable guidelines for the presence of Catholics in society, in institutions, in the economy, in finance and in politics. Caritas in Veritate drew attention to the benefits but also the dangers of globalization, when it is not oriented to the good of peoples. If globalization has increased notably the aggregate wealth of the whole and of quite a few individual States, it has also exacerbated the gap among the various social groups, creating inequalities and new poverties in the very countries considered richer.

One of the aspects of today’s economic system is the exploitation of the international imbalance in the costs of work, which weighs on thousands of people who live on less than two dollars a day. This imbalance not only does not respect the dignity of those that provide the manpower at a low price, but destroys sources of work in those regions in which it is protected in the main. Posed here is the problem of creating mechanisms of protection of the rights of work, as well as of the environment, in the presence of a growing consumerist ideology, which does not show responsibility in conflicts with the cities and with creation.

The growth of inequalities and of poverties puts at risk inclusive and participatory democracy, which always presupposes an economy and a market that does not exclude and that is equitable. It is a question, therefore, of overcoming the structural causes of inequalities and poverty. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wished to point out three fundamental instruments for the social inclusion of the neediest, which are education, access to health care and work for all (cf. n. 192).

In other words, the State of social right is not dismantled and, in particular, the fundamental right to work. This cannot be considered a variable dependent on the financial and monetary markets. It is a fundamental good in regard to dignity (cf. Ibid.), to the formation of a family, to the realization of the common good and of peace. Education and work, access to welfare for all (cf. Ibid., 205), are key elements be it for development and the just distribution of goods, and for attaining social justice, be it to belong to the society (cf. Ibid., 53) and to participate freely and responsibly in political life, understood as administration of the res publica. Visions that pretend to increase profitability, at the cost of the restriction of the labor market, which creates new excluded ones, are not in conformity with an economy at the service of man and of the common good, with an inclusive and participatory democracy.

Another problem arises from the enduring imbalance between economic sectors, between remunerations, between commercial banks and speculative banks, between institutions and global problems: it is necessary to keep alive concern for the poor and social justice (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 201). It exacts, on one hand, profound reforms that provide for the redistribution of the wealth produced and universalization of free markets at the service of families, and, on the other, the redistribution of sovereignty, be it on the national plane, be it on the supranational plane.

Caritas in Veritate also requested that we look at the present social question as an environmental question. In particular, it remarked on the link between environmental ecology and human ecology, between the former and the ethics of life.

The principle of Caritas in Veritate is of extreme present importance. A love full of truth is in fact the basis on which to build the peace that is particularly desired and necessary today for the good of all. It agrees to overcome dangerous fanaticisms, conflicts for the possession of resources, migrations of biblical dimensions, the enduring wounds of hunger and poverty, the traffic of persons, injustices and social and economic disparities, imbalances in the access to collective goods.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Church is always moving, seeking new ways for the proclamation of the Gospel also in the social field. I thank you for your commitment in this realm and, on entrusting you to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I ask you to pray for me and I bless you from my heart. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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