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Pope Francis condemns global 'cult of money'

Catholic leader urges world leaders to do more to help the poor as secretive Vatican Bank plans to boost transparency.

Last Modified: 16 May 2013 17:58
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Francis, formerly Buenos Aires' archbishop, was a main backer of the poor during his country's economic crisis [AFP]

Pope Francis has called on world leaders to put an end to the "cult of money" and to do more to help the poor, warning that insecurity was rising in many regions of the world and the "joy of life" was diminishing in developed countries.

"The worship of the golden calf of old 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 human goal," Francis said in an address to ambassadors to the Vatican on Thursday.

Francis said that radical free-market ideologies had created "a new, invisible, and at times virtual, tyranny" and human beings "considered as consumer goods" and called for global financial reform that would benefit everyone.

"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 majority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling," he said.

"I encourage the financial exports and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of St John Chrysostom "Not to share one's goods with the poor is to rob them", he said.

The Argentine pope, formerly the archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, became a powerful voice on the side of the poor during his homeland's devastating economic crisis.

Increasing transparency

The Vatican Bank, a centre of scandals for decades, is to launch its own website and publish its annual report in an effort to increase transparency, its new president said.

Ernst von Freyberg told the bank's employees of the changes, which should be in place by the end of the year, this week, according to Vatican Radio.

He also said the bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) and dubbed the world's most secretive bank by Forbes magazine, had also hired an auditing firm to make sure it meets international standards against money laundering. 

Freyberg was appointed in February to take the place of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi who was fired last May.

Gotti Tedeschi said he was dismissed because he wanted more transparency but the board, made up of international financial experts, said he had neglected basic management responsibilities and alienated staff.

His abrupt departure, along with the arrest of Pope Benedict's butler for stealing confidential papal documents, came during a leaks scandal that shook the Vatican last year and contributed to Benedict's decision to resign.

The Vatican has been trying to shed its image as a murky financial centre since 1982, when Roberto Calvi, known as "God's Banker" because of his links to the Vatican, was found hanging from London's Blackfriars Bridge.

Calvi was head of the Banco Ambrosiano, then Italy's largest private bank, which collapsed in a fraudulent bankruptcy.

The Vatican bank owned part of the Ambrosiano.

In July, a European anti-money laundering committee said the Vatican Bank failed to meet all its standards on fighting money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.

The report by Moneyval, a monitoring group of the 47-nation Council of Europe, found the Vatican had passed only nine of 16 "key and core" aspects of its financial dealings.

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