5 February 2020 | Address of His Holiness


Casina Pio IV

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
I wish to express my gratitude to you for this meeting. We are taking advantage
of this new beginning of the year to build bridges, bridges that foster the
development of a look of solidarity starting from banks, finances, governments
and economic decisions. We need many voices capable of thinking, from a
multifaceted perspective, the different dimensions of a global problem affecting
our peoples and our democracies.
I would like to start with a fact. The world is rich and yet the poor are growing
around us. According to official reports, this year’s world income will be nearly $
12,000 per capita. Yet hundreds of millions of people are still plunged into
extreme poverty and lack food, housing, medical care, schools, electricity,
drinking water and adequate and indispensable health services. An estimated
five million children under the age of 5 will die this year from poverty. Another
260 million will not receive education due to lack of resources, wars and
migrations. This in a rich world, because the world is rich.
This situation has led millions of people to be victims of trafficking and new
forms of slavery, such as forced labor, prostitution and organ trafficking. They do
not enjoy any rights and guarantees; they can’t even enjoy friendship or family.
These realities should not be a reason for despair, but for action. They are
realities that push us to do something.
The main message of hope that I wish to share with you is precisely this: these
are solvable problems and not lack of resources. There is no determinism that
condemns us to universal iniquity. Let me repeat it: we are not condemned to
universal iniquity. This makes possible a new way of dealing with events, which
allows you to find and generate creative answers in the face of the avoidable
suffering of so many innocent people; which implies accepting that, in many
situations, we are faced with a lack of will and decision to change things and
mainly priorities. We are asked for the ability to let ourselves be consulted and
to let the scales fall from the eyes and to see these realities with a new light, a
light that pushes us to action.
A rich world and a vibrant economy can and must end poverty. Dynamics
capable of including, feeding, caring for and dressing the least in society can be
generated and promoted instead of excluding them. We have to choose what and
to whom to give priority: whether to favor humanizing socio-economic
mechanisms for the whole of society or, on the contrary, foment a system that
ends up justifying certain practices that do nothing but increase the level of
injustice and violence social. The level of wealth and technique accumulated by
humanity, as well as the importance and value that human rights have acquired,
no longer allow excuses. We must be aware that we are all responsible. This
does not mean that we are all guilty, no; we are all responsible for doing
If extreme poverty exists in the midst of wealth – in turn extreme – it is because
we have allowed the gap to widen to become the largest in history. These are
almost official figures: the fifty richest people in the world have an equity
equivalent to 2.2 trillion dollars. These fifty people alone could finance the
medical care and education of every poor child in the world, either through taxes
or through philanthropic initiatives, or both. These fifty people could save
millions of lives every year.
The globalization of indifference has called it “inaction”. St. John Paul II called it:
structures of sin. These structures find a favorable climate for their expansion
every time the common good is reduced or limited to certain sectors or, in the
case that brings us together here, when the economy and finance become ends
in themselves. It is the idolatry of money, greed and speculation. It is this
reality, now added to the exponential technological vertigo, which increases, at
steps never seen before, the speed of transactions and the possibility of
producing concentrated earnings without these are related to production
processes and not even to the real economy. Virtual communication favors this
type of thing.
Aristotle celebrates the invention of money and its use, but firmly condemns
financial speculation because in it “money itself becomes productive, losing its
true purpose which is to facilitate trade and production” (Politics I, 10, 1258 b).
In a similar way, and following the reason illuminated by faith, the Church’s
social doctrine celebrates the forms of government and the banks – many times
created to protect it: it is interesting to see the history of the pawnshops, the
banks created to favor and collaborate – when they fulfill their purpose, which is,
ultimately, to seek the common good, social justice, peace, as well as the
integral development of each individual, each human community and all people.
However, the Church warns that these beneficial institutions, both public and
private, can fall into sinful structures. I am using the definition of Saint John Paul
The structures of sin today include repeated tax cuts for the wealthiest people,
justified many times in the name of investment and development; tax havens for
private and corporate earnings; and of course the possibility of corruption by
some of the world’s largest companies, not infrequently in tune with the
governing political sector.
Every year one hundred thousand million dollars, which should be paid in taxes
to finance medical assistance and education, accumulate in accounts of tax
havens, thus preventing the possibility of the worthy and sustained development
of all social actors.
Poor people in heavily indebted countries face overwhelming tax burdens and
cuts in social services as their governments pay debts contracted in an
insensitive and unsustainable way. In fact, the public debt contracted, in many
cases to boost and encourage the economic and productive development of a
country, can be constituted in a factor that damages and damages the social
fabric. When it ends up being oriented towards another goal.
Just as there is co-irresponsibility with regard to this damage caused to the
economy and society, there is also an inspiring and promising co-responsibility to
create a climate of fraternity and renewed trust that embraces the search for
innovative and humanizing solutions as a whole.
It is good to remember that there is no magical or invisible law that condemns
us to freezing or paralysis in the face of injustice. And even less an economic
rationality that presupposes that the human person is simply an accumulator of
individual benefits unrelated to his condition of being social.
The moral demands of Saint John Paul II in 1991 appear surprisingly current
today: ¬ęThe principle that debts must be paid is certainly right; it is not lawful,
however, to ask or demand a payment, when this would actually impose political
choices such as to lead to hunger and to despair whole populations. Debts
incurred cannot be expected to be paid with unbearable sacrifices. In these
cases it is necessary – as is happening in part – to find ways of easing, extending
or even extinguishing the debt, compatible with the fundamental right of peoples
to subsistence and progress “(Centesimus annus, n. 35) .
In fact, even the Sustainable Development Goals approved unanimously by all
nations recognize this point – it is a human point – and urge all peoples to “help
countries achieve long-term debt sustainability through coordinated policies
aimed at to encourage debt financing, debt relief and debt conversion, and to
address external debt and reduce the hardship of heavily indebted poor
countries “(SDG, 17, 4).
This must consist of the new forms of solidarity that unite us today, which unite
us here, if we think about the world of banking and finance: in helping to
develop the peoples left behind and in leveling among the countries that enjoy a
determined standards and level of development and those unable to guarantee
the minimum necessary for their populations. Solidarity and economy for the
union, not for the division, with the sound and clear awareness of
Practically from here it is necessary to affirm that the greatest structure of sin,
or the greatest structure of injustice, is the industry of war itself, since it is
money and time at the service of division and death. The world loses billions of
dollars every year in armaments and violence, sums that would end poverty and
illiteracy if they could be redeployed. Truly Isaiah spoke on behalf of God to all
mankind when he foretold the day of the Lord when “they will beat their swords
into plowshares, their spears into sickles” (Is 2: 4). Let’s follow him!
More than seventy years ago, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human
Rights committed all its Member States to take care of the poor in their land and
homes, and all over the world, that is, in the common home, the whole world is
the common house. Governments recognized that social protection, basic
income, medical care for all and universal education were inherent in
fundamental human dignity and, therefore, in fundamental human rights.
These economic rights and a safe environment for all are the most basic
measure of human solidarity. And the good news is that while in 1948 these
goals were not immediate, today, with a much more developed and
interconnected world, yes they are. Progress has been made in this direction.
You, who have kindly gathered here, are the world’s financial leaders and
economic experts. Together with your colleagues, help to establish global tax
rules, inform the global public about our economic situation and advise the
governments of the world on the budget. Know firsthand what the injustices of
our current global economy are, or the injustices of each country. Let’s work
together to end these injustices. When the multilateral credit organizations
provide advice to the various nations, it is important to keep in mind the high
concepts of fiscal justice, the public budgets responsible for their indebtedness
and, above all, an effective promotion, which makes them protagonists, of the
poorest in the social network. Remind them of their responsibility to offer
development assistance to poor nations and debt relief for highly indebted
nations. Remind them of the imperative to stop man-made climate change, as all
nations have promised, so that we don’t destroy the foundations of our common
A new ethics presupposes being aware of the need for everyone to work
together to close tax shelters, avoid evasions and money laundering that rob
society, as well as to tell nations the importance of defending justice and the
common good above the interests of the most powerful companies and
multinationals – which end up suffocating and preventing local production -. The
present tense demands and requires moving from an insular and antagonistic
logic as the only authorized mechanism for the solution of conflicts, to another
capable of promoting the interconnection that favors a culture of encounter,
where the solid foundations of a new one are renewed international financial
In this context, in which the development of some social and financial sectors
has reached levels never seen before, how important it is to remember the
words of Luke’s Gospel: “Anyone who was given much, much will be asked” (12,
48). How inspiring it is to listen to Saint Ambrose, who thinks with the Gospel:
“You (rich) do not give yours to the poor [when you do charity] …. but you’re
giving him what’s his. Because you are using the common property in use for all
“(Naboth 12, 53). This is the principle of the universal destination of goods, the
basis of economic and social justice, as well as of the common good.
I am delighted with your presence here today. We celebrate the opportunity to
know how to co-participate in the work of the Lord who can change the course of
history for the benefit of the dignity of each person today and tomorrow,
especially the excluded, and for the benefit of the great good of peace. We
humbly and wisely work together to serve international and inter-generational
justice. We have boundless hope in the teaching of Jesus that the poor in spirit
are blessed and happy, because of them is the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 5: 3)
which begins already here and now.
Thank you! And please, I make a request, it is not a loan: do not forget to pray
for me, because this work that I have to do is not easy at all, and I invoke all the
blessings on you, on you and about your work.