A person is more than what they consume
May 16, 2013
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On Thursday May 17, 2013, Pope Francis met with the ambassadors of Kyrgystan, Antigua and Barbuda, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Botswana. Below is the full text of his address to the ambassadors, which focused on the need for ethics, especially in relation to the financial crisis.
Your Excellencies,
I am pleased to receive you for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See on the part of your respective countries: Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Botswana.  The gracious words which you have addressed to me, for which I thank you heartily, have testified that the Heads of State of your countries are concerned to develop relations of respect and cooperation with the Holy See.  I would ask you kindly to convey to them my sentiments of gratitude and esteem, together with the assurance of my prayers for them and their fellow citizens.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas.  We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications.  At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences.  Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident.  People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way.  One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society.  Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis.  In the denial of the primacy of human beings!  We have created new idols.  The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.
The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption.  Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away.  We have started a throw-away culture.  This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted!  In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy.  While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling.  This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.  A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules.  Moreover, indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power.  Added to this, as if it were needed, is widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions.  The will to power and of possession has become limitless.
Concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God.  Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance!  It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power; as a threat, because it rejects manipulation and subjection of people: because ethics leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market.  God is thought to be unmanageable by these financiers, economists and politicians, God is unmanageable, even dangerous, because he calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery.  Ethics – naturally, not the ethics of ideology – makes it possible, in my view, to create a balanced social order that is more humane.  In this sense, I encourage the financial experts and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life.  It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs” (Homily on Lazarus, 1:6 – PG 48, 992D).
Dear Ambassadors, there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone.  This would nevertheless require a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders.  I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations.  Money has to serve, not to rule!  The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them.  The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics.
For her part, the Church always works for the integral development of every person.  In this sense, she reiterates that the common good should not be simply an extra, simply a conceptual scheme of inferior quality tacked onto political programmes.  The Church encourages those in power to be truly at the service of the common good of their peoples.  She urges financial leaders to take account of ethics and solidarity.  And why should they not turn to God to draw inspiration from his designs?  In this way, a new political and economic mindset would arise that would help to transform the absolute dichotomy between the economic and social spheres into a healthy symbiosis.
Finally, through you, I greet with affection the Pastors and the faithful of the Catholic communities present in your countries.  I urge them to continue their courageous and joyful witness of faith and fraternal love in accordance with Christ’s teaching.  Let them not be afraid to offer their contribution to the development of their countries, through initiatives and attitudes inspired by the Sacred Scriptures!  And as you inaugurate your mission, I extend to you, dear Ambassadors, my very best wishes, assuring you of the assistance of the Roman Curia for the fulfilment of your duties.  To this end, upon you and your families, and also upon your Embassy staff, I willingly invoke abundant divine blessings.  Thank you.
 
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Photo courtesy of Vatican Televison
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